For many, the morning of this race was the first time to click on skis for the winter. Several variations of “Last night I pulled them out of the closet, scraped off the storage wax, and waxed according to Barry and TOKO as linked through the TUNA website” were heard. Other skiers, more dedicated perhaps, mentioned that they had already skied thin snow at West Yellowstone, White Pine, and Mountain Dell. A few had even skate-skied after hours up the ski runs at the downhill resorts. The question was, would any skier be ready for classic sprints?
Miracle of Snow
Still, the race was a grand opener to the season. Soldier Hollow once again, pulled a miracle white rabbit out of the hat. I fly-fished the Provo River in the Heber Valley the day before the race and admired a rocky and dramatic snow covered Mount Timpanogos, but saw no sign of snow down in Soldier Hollow. So as my son and I drove to the race Saturday morning, we were driving through a sea of tall beautiful yellow-brown grasses with dairy cows nodding and staring as we rolled by. Then, pop, up on the hillside, the startling white run of the tubing hill and hints of snow down in the hollow. Good, deep, hard artificial snow that held a steady temperature through the morning and into the afternoon as it turned out. Red glide wax and red or (for those with better technique) violet kick wax worked for both the morning run and after-lunch sprint heats.
Sprinting for Glory
If you missed it, the race was a 1 km, uphill sprint. In the morning, individual starters at the Soldier Hollow stadium raced past the biathlon shooting range, over the bridge, up the hollow, and at 50 meters past the turn to the Day Lodge. The course slammed a 180 degree turn onto a slight, but much appreciated downhill run returning to the climb up and final sprint to the Day Lodge. Under the morning and sun and blue skies, one hundred and fourteen skiers individually charged away from the start, double poling, kick double poling, or striding out toward the lodge.
For the twenty-two U-12 (down to five years old) the racing was over; 1 km is their common distance race – and this was steep. A very pleasant and less crowded lunch at the day lodge was hosted by WHF Wealth Management and Kevin Murphy. Dave Hanscom and Richard Hodges awarded the podium and participation medals to the youngest set of racers, which is always exciting to watch. And while the race crew sorted out the individual sprint times, the raucous raffle, with series sponsor Black Diamond and race sponsor Wild Rose (still doing ski-grinds at a secret location for local conditions), rewarded nearly every racer with some grand to small prize including several pairs of skis.
Full Bellies, Full Tilt
Leaden legs and full tummies spilled out of the day lodge to reverse the course back to the stadium to run up it again, but this time in category sprint heats. Fourteen waves were required to empty out the stadium. Leah Lange, formerly of Park City NSC, now skiing for the University of Utah, took top position for the women at 2:24.3 and Bjorn Riksaasen, University of Utah skier at 1:51.1 skied to top honors for the men in the final sprint heat.
Training Limited Due to Dirty Air
I should have taken a poll. How many people on the west side and dirty side of the Wasatch reduced their training last week due to the polluted air? I know that I cut out all my outside early morning runs, then tried to make up for it with a vengeance as the caustic air improved slightly on Friday and again at 4:30 am on Saturday before the race. Bad idea, should have been rest days. If not the whole group, I did ask several individuals about the dirty air and their training. The folks I spoke with living on the Park City side of the Wasatch did not alter their training – east of the divide, in cold but cleaner air with a short drive to the groomed track at Mountain Dell and thin but skiable 3 km at White Pine, they skied. But on the thick side of the range, several skiers said they stayed indoors in the filtered air, skipping their outdoor training. Hum, time to move and add to the driving congestion?
Now we move on to the rest of the Wasatch Citizens’ Series races and other races in adjoining states. This race was a great reminder that there is blue sky and skiing outside the murky skies of Salt Lake City. Many thanks to Soldier Hollow for creating the only possibility of a great opener to the Wasatch Citizens’ Race Series!