Posted on November 30 2014
Every year Thanksgiving passes and the time for overindulgence is replaced with the sick masochism of the ski mountaineering race series. I glance down at the calendar and see the first stop on the Colorado Ski Mountaineering Race Cup is Wolf Creek and it is only one week away. Then begins the speculation of whether the race will be canceled, because it is only November and there is no snow.
One year I will learn not to question the weather gods of the San Juans... For the second year in a row the slopes went from bare ground to feet of powder in a flash. Although the timing of the massive dump was similar the race days conditions and course map could not be further off. In 2013 we faced blizzard conditions as the storm was upon us, dumping two inches an hour. Because of avalanche conditions Pete Swenson was forced to reroute the course just minutes before, and even during the race, forcing us onto mostly groomer ascents and staying away from the top bowls.
This year the snow was on the ground and the skies were bright and sunny. The majority of the skinning was an amazing treed single track and the skiing was down open snow covered bowls disappearing into tight technical trees. There were plenty of snow snakes lurking in the early season coverage just to knock the spice factor up a notch. One of the course highlights was a semi technical booter up through the woods. There was little snow over a steep rock band and competitors were forced to jug up on a fixed line to gain the ridge.
It was early season and everyone was shaking off the rust. I managed to stick U.S. Ski Mountaineering Team members Billy Laird and Rory Kelly up the first two climbs until my lack of endurance became apparent. Then the wheels started wobbling when a snow snake grabbed my pole on the second descent and I had to wallow uphill through powder to regain it. My biggest mistake was transitioning for a downhill after the booter that only last 30 feet, although, I did trick most of the competitors behind me into the same mistake. After throwing the skins back on the glue was shot and I had to replace them on the climb and just hold onto my flagging skins to the top. I was rewarded by another exciting descent where I saw a competitor cartwheel several times through the woods miraculously avoiding all trees and landing back on his feet.
Wolf Creek is an excellent event to cut your teeth for competitive ski mountaineering. Use it as training and a learning experience for the bigger races like the Power of Four or The Elk Mountain Grand Traverse. It has everything a Skimo race needs, thank you to Scott Simmons and Miles Venzara and Pine Needle Mountaineering for putting in the work for this great race.
Congratulations to all finishers.
1 Scott Simmons 1:39:55 hr/min/sec
2 Jon Brown 1:43:41 hr/min/sec
3 Pete Swenson 1:47:19 hr/min/sec
1 Lindsey Plant 2:03:13 hr/min/sec
2 Sarah Stubbe 2:54:19 hr/min/sec
3 Christena Ward 2:57:46 hr/min/sec
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