"Well, at least they don't need to bring out the chainsaw". "Does anyone have a real shovel?"
It took some hard work from the organizers and Eric to chisel a skintrack into the slope for the sprint race. But by the time the race started, we had sculpted a good course. And that is something I love about these sprint races. We are given a bit of freedom to add elements to make passing easier and racing fairer (more equitable lines, larger transition areas, wider turns).
I felt like I never really found my limit in my qualifying, quarters, and semi final runs, but was in for a rough awakening in the finals when I found myself off the back at the start. Unfortunately I kept picking the wrong set of skis to follow but eventually worked my way up to the tail end of the group finishing dead last in the heat but still only 6 seconds behind the winner.
|Start of Semi Final heat|
|MORE EDGE ANGLE|
Although only really consisting of 2 climbs, this course has it all: A nice groomer start to spread things out, skintrack with kick turns, ridge bootpack that both ascends and descends. Steep cattrack drag race. Excellent skiing on smooth wind buff and "bottomless" powder.
Nick wasn't here this year to tag team with Eric and string out the group, so I took on those honors. The first uptrack was a little blown in. Noticing that other skiers were coming up only a couple of switchbacks below, I took a pretty solid turn at the front to keep the pace up, but not blow up, focusing on keeping the skins gripping. Eric upped the pace at the top following some downhill ski tracks and continued even through some deep trailbreaking. Mike Foote also got away blitzing the downhill ridge bootpack section. There was a bit of confusion when the bootpack started to ascend again as we didn't regain the ridge, instead sticking to the groomer (and marked with green "skinning" flags) until popping out onto the ridge just before the top of the climb. Mike and Eric were later penalized 1minute for skinning part of this section. High winds on the ridge made things very cold and visibility difficult, but once at the top of High Rustler, it was excellent skiing on wind "groomed" snow. The slower first climb meant that I had a lot left in the tank and I blasted my fastest time ever up the cat road for the 2nd climb. I had heard speculation of horror stories related to the snow quality of the final descent with some rain crust evident at the base of the ski area but I found nothing but dry, bottomless powder. Tiring, but fun skiing on the race skis. Happy with a 3rd place, and gives me a good idea on where I can improve (pacing and descending) in future races.
Lots of good war stories at the end once people started rolling in: A broken ski, faceplants, burning legs on the descent, skin failure, kickturn struggles and bottlenecks, time cuts (with high winds and cat ski area availability a good call by the organizer to ensure the future sustainability of this race...)