Monday, March 6, 2017

February Skimo - whitefish & nelson

The 2017 iteration of the Whitefish Whiteout was special in many regards.  Between all the race categories, a record 130+ folks took part, to honor Ben Parsons and celebrate his love of uphill skiing in the Flathead community.

Additionally, the Toni Matt uphill route was officially re-named the Benny Up route, again in tribute of Ben.  Lastly, local skimo crusher Mike Foote broke the single ascent time record to the summit, in a speedy 24:52.    

This was my first time racing the whiteout and I had a blast, having a close battle with Brian, Jeffrey and Stano.  Read on for a full recap.
race start.  i'm in blue at far left and not actually in the lead.  (photo: bria)
After a painfully hard start off the line, I eased back a touch on the throttle but kept pushing hard, hoping to remain within sight of the chase pack at the summit.  This didn’t materialize but I transitioned slightly behind Jeffrey in sixth place before starting down the first run.  The skiing was pretty terrible but I made it down in one piece before throwing on skins and staying close behind jeffrey on the skin to the NBC booter.  Brian caught me by the top of the booter and cruised past soon after as I paused in confusion at the top of the skins-on descent towards lodi peak.  Jeffrey, Brian, myself and Stano made the short climb up lodi all close together before getting a little separated on the confusing descent.  I passed jeffrey in the trees but then emerged a little too low on a groomer so had to skate up/over to the transition which would allow him to repass me.  Again Brian, Jeffrey and myself in close succession made the climb to the bighorn bootpack where places 2 (travis) through 6 (jeffrey) were all still on the bootpack as I started up.  Jeffrey and I ripped skins together at the top of the climb before he missed some flagging and made a detour down to the final transition point, arriving a few seconds after I did.  With the finish line at the summit, all that remained was the final low angle cat track climb to go. 

We quickly threw on skins as Stano arrived and the stage was set for an exciting sprint finish!  I was initially a few strides ahead of Jeffrey til Stano dropped the hammer and pulled up along side me, forcing me to dig deep to stay ahead.  We could see Brian not far ahead looking over his shoulder but he was out of our reach with the short distance to go.  As I rounded the final corner, I pushed as hard as I could, hopeful it would be enough to hold off Stano.  Fortunately it was, and I collapsed at the finish, 5 seconds ahead of him, 14 seconds ahead of Jeffrey and 21 behind Brian.  Definitely the most sustained battling and exciting finish I’ve thus far experienced in racing.
i narrowly missed out on this top 5 podium.  (photo taken from foote's instagram)
I finished in 1:41:32 in 6th place.  Worth mentioning that places 2-8 all finished within 3:12 of one another.  Full results here. 

Rose: despite the suffering, the exciting sprint finish with Stano and Jeffrey
Thorn: a few small route-finding hiccups and poor skin choices on most of the climbs
Bud: returning next year for the full course including hellroaring peak that was left out this year due to avy danger

Two weeks later, the allure of Canadian powder and poutine proved strong, prompting bria and I to make the drive up to Nelson for the ROAM race and a weekend of touring.  With the Canadian national team (Nick, Travis, Peter, Stano, etc.) over in Italy for the skimo world championships, Jeffrey and I were able to swoop in and snag the top two spots of the podium on a gorgous morning and a new & improved course.  Read on for a full recap.
whitewater sidecounty and mt. ymir
start of the ROAM race (photo: bria)
A fast start up a cat track put me in the lead til Steve Sellers eased past shortly before the up-track became steep off-piste switchbacks.  The skin track was much too steep, particularly with my skinnier pair of skins so I spent more time than I would have liked slipping and resulting to sidestepping, which allowed Steve to open a gap and Jeffrey to catch up who was also struggling on skinny skins.  Once the course hit the ridge, we were treated to a steep & spicy skins-on descent before making a short climb further up the ridge.  A little confusion as to the transition spot allowed myself and Jeffrey to catch Steve and we all ripped skins together.  
steve, myself and jeffrey on the first climb (photo: phil best photography)
Steve was the first out, but I soon passed and gapped him on the powdery downhill.  Little did I know I would lead the remainder of the race.  Jeffrey arrived at the transition as I was on my second skin (employed wider skins for the remainder of the race) and stayed close behind on the off-piste switchbacks up towards the aesthetic white lightning bootpack.  The upper half of the booter had been filled in by the wind so I broke knee-deep trail to the top, which allowed Jeffrey to close the gap and top out right behind me.  
unknown racers starting up the white lightning boot pack (photo: phil best)
A short undulating skin put us atop the second climb where we traversed into ymir bowl and skied some great powder back down towards the base area.  I took one small cartwheeling fall but fortunately my skis stayed on so I popped back up and kept cruising.  Jeffrey arrived at the transition site as I was starting up the third climb so I kept pushing hard, starting to think I could actually win this thing.  Midway up the climb during some off-piste switchbacks, I noticed Jeffrey not far behind had blown a skin, which told me the race was now mine to loose.  I kept cruising up the ridge to the second long bootpack, followed by a short skin to the final transition spot.  I skied the final downhill a little more conservatively then the prior two, taking care not to crash and get passed.  Fortunately I knew about the weird, out-of-sight U-turn and uphill skate to the finish from last year.  A few minutes later I cheered Jeffrey across the finish and shared stories of our races before cheering on Steve as he arrived in third place.  Full results here.
catching my breath at the finish (photo: ROAM gear shop)
The remainder of the day was spent skiing excellent powder back in 5 mile basin with Bria before indulging in some poutine and standing on the snowdium (snow podium).  Even hours after finishing, I was still in a little awe of having won.  It certainly wouldn’t have happened without a few particular folks racing over in Italy but hey, I’ll take it. 
feeling more excited than I look (photo: bria)

5 mile basin (photo: bria)
On Sunday, Bria and I broke up the drive home by skiing on the south side of Kootenay Pass for a few hours and again enjoying great powder conditions. 
cool skin track shot (photo: bria)
bria enters the white room on kootenay pass
Rose: beautiful weather, great snow, a much improved course and taking the top spot made for a really fun race
Thorn: some serious struggling on the too-steep skintrack on the first climb
Bud: meeting the lake louise skimo race director at the finish and maybe/hopefully making the long drive up there at the end of March for what sounds like an awesome course

1 comment:

  1. Andrew, I'm pretty sure your always more excited than you look. It's all good... its become pretty obvious that your internal stoke is next level. Nice work dude!