Since the first Wasatch Powder Keg 10 years ago I have dabbled in ski mountaineering races and come to be race director of one of the largest skimo races in the US. Over the years, I had put together a quite light tele rig to race on and had enjoyed it. After touring in Switzerland last spring, I started to get the bug for a light weight AT setup that would tour good and also race good. This fall I started putting that setup together. I got a pair of Dynafit TLT Performance boots, Ski Trab Free Rando Skis, and Dynafit Low Tech Light Bindings. Luck would have it that Andy and Jason Dorais finally took on the challenge of starting a Citizen SkiMo Race Series and our snow has been extremely low so I have had a lot of opportunity to race up and down Brighton to test out the setup. I was hooked and thoroughly enjoying myself. From several years of ultra running, I have found that I don’t have much of a top end (i.e. I’m slow) so this has been a great way to speed train during the winter. Several of us decided that for our first major race of the year, we would go up to Jackson, WY for the USSMA (US Ski Mountaineering Association) and race in the National Championship race. We realized we would be in well over our head, but new that it would be fun. For an added challenge, Grand Targhee has a race the following day.
Beings it was our first race, we didn’t really know what to expect. Evan, Matt, and I packed all our gear, plus everything else we thought we might need, into Matt’s van and off we went. Walking around Jackson waiting for packet pickup we ran in to many familiar faces from ultra running, adventure racing, and the Powder Keg. We had nervous anticipation as we checked and picked up our race packets. Of to Victor where we were staying with Evan’s friend Dahvi and Tom (thanks for the hospitality). After dinner and a couple of beers, we started getting our gear ready for the race. After numerous text messages and calls to Luke Nelson, we our packs were ready (with the only real contents being shovel, probe, tiny wind shell, and spare skins).
We were on the road early Saturday for the drive over the pass. The morning atmosphere can be described as light and agro. People were having fun, but you could tell there was a lot of stress in the air over a big race and when people started warming up, the differences from an Ultra were readily apparent by the seriousness of the competitors. Being my first race and having been fighting a cold all week, my goals were to simply finish the 8,200’ climbing and 11.5 mile race in under 4 hours. When the gun went off, the pace out of the gate was nothing less than extraordinary (check out the video below showing the start and other highlights). I set a hard pace (for me) and settled in for a long climb to the top of Jackson. Although being well out of my comfort zone from an exertion level, I was having lots of fun. The race had 6 climbs and 2 booter’s. The skinning and skiing were both tough with ice, moguls, rocks, and breakable crust. I learned why Luke had told us to make sure to have spare skins as I had a skin failure after the third descent and had to use my spare skins which were much narrower than my skis and caused me to have to side step a lot of the icy sections. This probably cost me 10 minutes. My water bottle froze 90 minutes into the race so I was without water for the majority of the time. The second to last descent was from the top of the mountain to the bottom (over 3,500’). At this point in the race, it was all you could do to hang on as my quads felt like they were going to explode. With only 1 climb and descent left, there was nothing to do but put my head down and push as hard as I could. My skiing ability paid off the entire race where I could catch and pass numerous people on the descents, then just try to hold them off (or keep up with them) on the ascents. Have skies/bindings that were not true race gear (~2-3 lbs heavier) was definitely a disadvantage climbing. I crossed the finish line in 3:35. That was just an hour under Luke’s winning time which I thought was pretty good.
The fast guys of Team Wasatch SkiMo
Men’s Race Division – Luke Nelson Winner
We enjoyed the rest of Saturday talking with racers/friends, drinking beer, and eating as much as possible to refuel for Sunday. Sunday morning came and we all felt good. Some tiredness in the legs, but not stiff or sore so that was good. The Targhee race had a relaxing 10:30 AM start. We were at the mountain early and took out time getting ready. Luke was kind enough to spend 15 minutes before warm up giving us a transition clinic, then it all started over like on Saturday. The Targhee race was shorter, 5,700’ climbing and 8.5 miles, but the climbs were quite steep and long. To keep this from getting too long, the weather was cloudy with even some mist so it was difficult to see on the descents. I was happy to finish in 2:09, just under 30 minutes behind the winner. Saturday was a Wasatch sweep of the race division with Jason Dorais, Gemma Arro Ribot, and Evan Calplis all bringing home the gold.
Men’s Heavy Metal Division – Evan Caplis Winner
Men’s Race Division – Jason Dorais Winner
Additional Race Photos
Jackson National Championship
- Overall photos:
- Photos of me
- Photos of me
What’s next, I am hooked on the sport. It is time to get a lighter set of skis and get my total boot, ski, and binding combo below 9 lbs. I am also planning several more races this year.
|US Ski Mountaineering National Championship||1/7/2012||Jackson Hole, WY||Done|
|Grand Targhee Ski Mountaineering Classic||1/8/2012||Grand Targhee, WY||Done|
|2012 ISMF North American Championships||01/27/2012 – 01/29/2012||Crested Butte, CO|
|Alta Tele Rando Race||02/25/2012 – 02/26-2012||Alta, UT|
|The Power of Four Ski Mountaineering Race||3/3/2012||Aspen/Snowmass, CO|
|Wasatch Powder Keg||3/10/2012||Brighton Ski Resort, UT||Race Director|
|Cody’s Challenge||3/17/2012||Steamboat Springs, CO||Tentative|
|The Five Peaks presented by CAMP||4/7/2012||Breckenridge, CO||If I can find a partner|