I am just getting this blog going and am adding reports from earlier in the season. This race took place on February 5th.
The Mad River Valley Vermont race is the longest running race in New England with the inaugural event held in 2006. I didn’t get my first pair of touring bindings until later that same year and entered for the first time in 2007. I was sporting Naxo bindings, Salomon skis, and Garmont Adrenaline boots. Not exactly the lightest setup. Jonathan S. obviously thought the same thing as he made a comment in passing while I applied my skins. This was before we had been introduced and obviously before I was indoctrinated into the Dynafit cult. I think my finish time that year was just shy of 3.5 hours. I missed the 2008 race as I was on a hut trip in BC, but have made it the past 4 years.
The course travels from Mad River Glen to Lincoln Peak at Sugarbush and consistently draws large crowds and a deep field. This year was no different regarding the field, but one thing that was lacking was snow. It was determined that the icy moguls on the Lower Antelope slope at MRG were too dangerous for skinning. The start would be moved 3/4 of the way up the mountain requiring racers to ride the famous single chair to the top and then ski 1/4 of the way down Antelope to the start. This cut the first climb from ~2000ft to 500 vertical. I usually enjoy the technical skinning on the moguls as it requires good route selection and ski placement rather than just flat out speed. Race strategy was also altered as there was now only a half mile of skinning before getting onto the single track of the Long Trail where passing would be nearly impossible.
As expected, Jan W. jumped out to an early lead off the start. I dropped in behind but there was no way I could keep pace, so I settled into an effort I was comfortable with. As I entered the Long Trail section, I didn’t look back but knew the usual suspects would be hot on my heels. This portion of the course is up and down (mostly up) along the ridge between MRG and Sugarbush’s Mount Ellen. Two short down climbs with skis off were required due to the lack of snow. I tried to keep the pace up on this section as you can get excellent glide if you keep away from stray branches along the edge of the track waiting to grab a ski.
Emerging from the canopy covered trail onto the open slope I made a quick transition to ski the very short descent to the base of the boot pack. Starting the climb with skis on the pack, I could see Jan just ahead. He had a few minutes on me as I transitioned to ski mode. I consciously told myself to be aware of the possibility of snow buildup in my toe sockets from the boot pack but never made the connection to put my bindings in tour mode. This would be costly as I took a handful of turns, hit a firm patch of snow, and lost a ski as I tried to put my ski on edge. Luckily, my ski stopped on one of the large moguls but I proceeded to slide at least 20 feet past it. After a failed direct attempt to retrieve my ski, I took a more roundabout way to retrieve it.
My mistake allowed one person in the race division to pass me as well as a few of the rec racers (as they skipped the bootpack). Entering the Slide Brook section of the course I was stuck behind a rec skier snowplowing and taking up the entirety of the narrow trail. I was able to sneak by around a corner but the damage had been done as Jonathan S. pulled into the skins on transition right beside me. I left the transition first with a mere few second advantage.
I kept the lead until we transitioned again, took a very short downhill, and started a long uphill skate. Josh F. also passed me on this section as my skate skiing skills are lacking. I kept Josh in sight and caught up to him as he took a wrong turn on the descent. He again took the lead on a short uphill skate and I was also passed by Lincoln. I’m not sure how, but I was able to pole and ski past Lincoln on a green run as we weaved our way through massive whale-backs. So focused on Lincoln, I didn’t realize I had also closed in on Josh and passed him mere feet before the finish.
Due to Jan being so fast, he was able to beat the course marshal to her post at the Slide Brook entrance. A rope was prominently placed across the entrance and Jan ended up all the way down at the Lincoln Peak base costing him 12 minutes and allowed me to finish runner-up for the second year in a row.
This year the race picked up a new title sponsor in Dynafit. From talking with one of their reps, it sounds like they could be getting way more involved next year!