Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Steep Dreams ski mountaineering festival

Matt and Caroline Reid had put in lots of effort leading up to the inaugural skimo race at Panorama, working with the resort to optimise the courses, wrangle up sponsors, gifts, and prizes, and come up with innovative formats. Aside from standard individual and vertical ski mountaineering race formats, Steep Dreams introduced a race within a race: using the BC Enduro Series timing system, the 3 descents within the race were timed and bragging rights were on the line. And to cap it all off, a free skiing competition!

It is common to joke about Panorama being inside the hole of the "snow donut", meaning that while surrounding mountains in the Purcell ranges are getting pounded, Panorama is just getting a dusting. That might have still been the case this weekend, but Panorama was also getting pounded! And on top of that, the area skis pretty well anyways for not getting as much snow, although I smoked a rock pretty hard on the 2nd descent. This was also a bonus for ski conditions during and after the race. Most Calgary-based "powderhounds" head elsewhere: Fernie, Castle, Kicking Horse, and Revelstoke, the latter two of which got completely skunked, to drive in shitty conditions, then wait in long lineups.

The fresh snow was a blessing and a curse. In addition to Matt's work organizing the race, he was also the forerunner of the course, but with only one set of tracks from race skis, the track was still quite soft as I followed while leading the race. But the steep groomer on the first climb was more pleasant with a skintrack set through the powder switch backing up its slope. I had first tracks on the descents! Matt put in a valiant effort, but I eventually passed him and did some trailbreaking on the 2nd climb (he did something like 3500m of trailbreaking over the weekend!). Travis and Joel were lurking behind the whole time and it was critical to not panic when things got tough and to hammer when back on the set tracks!

I was able to hold on to the win, and was also 3rd fastest on the descents. And yes, I went skiing after the race, but my legs were screaming during the final run down Tayton bowl.

It snowed even more the next day before the early morning vertical race, but fortunately a snowcat taking our warm clothes up the mountain also groomed an ascent route for us. The legs were a little tired, but I was able to climb almost at a blazing fast 1500m/hr, even with a couple of very minor route bobbles.

But unfortunately, I was not able to get RAD enough in the freeski competition to make up for my deficit on the skiduro and had to settle for 2nd overall. Feeling fast leading up to Europe!

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