The idea of hosting a race at Marmot Basin has been tossed around before, but Alex Stieda was the first to go through with that idea. The namesake "basin" on the mountain provides a great amphitheater of terrain that is perfect for a ski mountaineering race. The mountain is a bit of a hidden gem, but it has the terrain and skis pretty good for the snowfall it gets. Unfortunately, I hadn't actually skied the terrain since 2005, as when I checked out the mountain on the 2017 closing weekend, the upper mountain was closed due to rain and warm temperatures causing avalanches to ground!
Course setting morning, I was relying heavily on the local knowledge of volunteers and staff who were seeing "skimo" for the first time. While things seemed a little hectic in the morning, by the end of the day, we had skintracks that had been bedded in again, and big GS gates on some of the descents. Big kudos to the volunteers for picking things up quickly and making it happen!
"Is the race going up the Cornice? That's pretty steep!"
Race day went pretty well. I took the lead off the start as I usually do, and because I wanted to make sure everyone went the right way as it was not a straightforward cat track. The group was pretty well strung out heading into the technical skinning section and the steep section directly up the ridge to the top.
Then came the descents, into whiteout, which would be the theme for the day. Rocks were hit if you veered too far from the cornice at the top of Tres Hombres. Fortunately the red pin flags provided the definition to get us down. I'm sure even the skiing public appreciated them unless they were content to stick below treeline.
Eric and Nick took off from me for the rest of the day, likely breaking trail on the old skintrack that had been skied over, putting in a huge chunk of time into me on the last climbs. The peak bootpack seemed to go on forever. The elite course did some extra climbs than the recreational course and it was nice to swap encouragement with the skiers as we passed by. In the end I finished 3rd, what I expected, but I couldn't match the pace on the last 2 climbs.
If I were asked to redesign the course for a future event, I would look to changing up the course. 3 descents down the busy Basin Run down to the mid mountain chalet is a little dangerous with all of the people there! The course was a little long and I didn't get to fit Eagle East or Caribou Knoll into the course. I appreciated the technical skinning, but the 1st climb was steep, and we had to repeat it again. So here's what I'm thinking:
1. start at Chalet and climb Eagle ridge
2. descend eagle east to transition at Slash
3. Climb Slash, and Eagle ridge to top of Cornice
4. descend cornice to transition at Knob (avoid going down the busy Basin Run!)
5. Climb to peak (same climb as this year)
6. Descend peak, transition on upper traverse of basin run.
7. Short climb to top of Tres Hombres
8. Descend Tres Hombres to just above traverse
9. Climb up to lower gate of Tres Hombres to top of Caribou Knoll
10. Descend Caribou Knoll.
11. Climb up to lower gate of Tres Hombres
12. Descend Showoff Cattrack to finish!
If that seems long, maybe eliminate 2 and 3.