March 8-9, 2014
Lack of snow has been a common theme this season. Organizers were fortunately able to reschedule this weekend of racing that was originally planned for January. One new venue and two new courses would provided a weekend with plenty of action.
Jay Peak played host on Saturday with a 7.5 mile course climbing 4250 ft encompassing some of the most difficult terrain on the mountain. The redesigned course layout started at the new Stateside base lodge and climbed up a low angled groomer before traversing across 3 black diamonds and turning up a fourth. The pitch quickly cranked up to near the limit of skins and the pace was subsequently brought to a crawl. At least one competitor found the angle too steep and resorted to booting up the pitch.
Start of the 2014 Dynafit Snow Leopard Challenge at Jay Peak.
Five or six competitors were within a minute at the top of the first climb. George got away first, Martin second, and I followed close behind as we dropped into a glade for a few hundred foot ski. Martin crashed early and I exited the glade onto a groomer just behind George. No flagging was to be seen in the low visibility but I was confident we were at the transition. I lead out of the transition with Josh and Leigh able to surpass George as well. The three of them closed the gap as I punched out the boot ladder up Green Beret. On to the summit we were all still tightly bunched.
Visibility again made it hard to follow the bamboo markings leading George to ski off course by missing a turn into the glade (30 sec penalty applied that allowed Leigh to take the victory). Leigh was on home turf, and put a gap on us during the descent as he and George were gone before Josh, Philippe, and I pulled into the skins-on transition. The three of us traded positions during the sequence of skin/boot/skin, descent of the mogul field on Power Line, traversing a green run, a slight uphill to gain another glade, and then straight-lining the condo slope into the transition for the final climb.
I pulled away first and tried to leave it all on the skintrack of the last short climb. I couldn’t hold of Josh as we pulled into the transition together. I fumbled a skin, skated into some soft snow and all I could do was watch as Josh pulled away for 3rd.
Sunday at Owls Head in Quebec brought a slightly longer course (8.6mi) with a bit more climbing (5050ft). The skiing was strictly on groomed piste but still a very enjoyable course with the majority of the climbs taking place in the backcountry sector. With a $500 cash prize on the line for the lowest combined time for the two days, all of the top talent from the day prior were in for another day of racing.
A short groomer lead to a steep moguled climb and I was able to position myself near the front so that I could choose what I felt was the most efficient line (which I scouted while warming up). I picked the left side while most of the others headed to the right side of the trail. My scouting paid off as I was able to get cleanly through the moguls without expending a lot of energy early on in the race. The first climb was short at 170m (we were in Canada, eh) and the first transition was closely packed. I pulled away first and made my way back to the starting line to transition for a traverse across the mountain and into the backcountry sector. I reached the mandatory downclimb and about halfway down stopped as I lost sight of the flags allowing a few people to get ahead and show me the proper way down to the road. A skins on descent lead to the low point an the climbing began in earnest. I trailed Leigh, George, and Martin with Josh and Philippe in hot pursuit. I was able to pass Martin while Josh, Leigh and I trailed George by a few seconds by the time we reached the summit.
Josh, Jerimy, and Leigh battling for 2nd.
I tried to follow Leigh on the descent, but he somehow evaded my tail and I missed a turn resulting in a 30 sec penalty for Josh and I. George took a spill on the descent and trailed Leigh as the four of us came to the skins on transition. A short climb lead us back to the now familiar downclimb and backcountry ascent. Josh and George passed me on the downclimb with Leigh on my heels. This order held up for the bootpack and into the final skins on transition. The last climb/descent was a repeat of the first climb/ski of 170m. I passed Josh in the transition and tried to gain on George. I ran out of real estate as George skied away just after I came into the final transition. An uneventful ski to the finish gave me 2nd place on the day and 3rd in the 2-day standings.
Nearing the bootpack to the summit of the Owl’s Head Rando.
The Dynafit QC rep, Jeff Rivest put in a lot of effort facilitating this two day event. I think it was very successful and would like to see the trend continue. Lets hope the snow and weather cooperate next year. Unlikely for the Northeast!
This week the NE Rando Race Series returns to Magic Mountain, VT.