Thursday, January 14, 2016

Castle Mountain: Guess who's back!

Sprint Action. Photo from Mark, the organizer of the Fernie Lizard Skinner race  on January 23, 2016

After racing well at the Vert 180 and putting in some good training at camp and over the Christmas break, I was looking forward to Castle. Brent, the organizer, even decided to throw in Canada’s first ever sprint race to kick off the weekend. 

The course was shorter than what I had raced, a vertical of only 40m, which happens to be in the same ballpark as Edmonton Ski Club. Dave and Brent had managed to chisel through the groomed run to create the transition areas, but the skintracks were not as hacked in so skinning technique would be important. 

I was paired up with Nick and Matt for the first heat. Nick crashed right off the start and I got my skis tangled up, but I managed to chase down Matt to win the heat. In the next heat, I was paired with Travis and Ben. Not wanting to get caught up in traffic, I attacked after the 3rd switchback and rocked the bootpack hard. Then I had trouble stepping into my skis, even blowing a ski and watched myself slide back into last. I was having fun and wanted to see if I could put down a dialed run, Nick too was looking for redemption and we were able to gather another two for a “B” final of 4 racers. I was able to match Nick up the bootpack, but again I had issues stepping in. I need to be more patient.

The sprint was lots of fun and having two races over the weekend really made it worthwhile for those travelling from further away.

Kylee had rented out a condo for a bunch of us skimo types to stay in. This was awesome, we all got to hang out together, eat good food, and go to bed uninterrupted by hostel shenanigans. Great idea!

The next morning was the main event and the legs were well loosened up from the sprint race. The resort was getting blasted with winds so skiing was smooth. I took off hard off the start and only Nick and Eric were able to get ahead of me. I watched Nick keep attacking Eric, not convinced that the pace was high enough as “Peter was still there”. When the course veered off the cattrack and onto the switchbacks, I focussed on skiing smoothly, nailing my kick turns and keeping Eric in sight. 

The bootpack was a good time. I only had the faint bootprints of Nick and Eric to follow, which were getting covered up by the wind. A couple of spicy downclimbs with exposure below, but I was able to find my way around a crux feature that was a hot topic of post-race discussion. 

Down the descent and up the steep cat skiing road. Still in 3rd place, I might just pull this off. And despite my frequent looking back acting like a magnet to Travis and Ben chasing behind me, I did pull it off. My best race since moving back from Canmore. Yup, pretty awesome to be working full time, pulling in real dollars, training in the river valley and being competitive with my past life living the dream in Canmore with only a part time job.

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