The Tenth Running of the Gap
The high point of the Appalachian Gap in Waitsfield, VT sits more than 1600’ vertical feet above the valley below. To get there, Vermont Route 17 snakes its way from the valley floor up past Mad River Glen Ski area before topping out at 2,375 feet above sea level. The road is steep, winding, and has the reputation of being one seriously impressive climb. On Saturday August 3, this uphill stretch of pavement was the proving ground for skiers from across North America who came to ski the App Gap Challenge.
The race is hosted by the New England Nordic Ski Association (NENSA), and is the first race of six in the NENSA High Peaks Cyclery Rollerski Series presented by Skitrax Magazine.
The idea of the App Gap Challenge is simple enough; an uphill rollerski skiathlon with competitors doing a skate leg before transitioning to classic skis for the final push to the summit. But if you were to look at the faces of the competitors making their way up the gap, you would know that completing this race is no simple feat.
By the start time at 9:30 the sun was beating down on the pavement and the day was beginning to feel hot. The touring division started the day off with a handful of skiers who took advantage of the lane closure and the rare opportunity to rollerksi the gap uninhibited by cars. They were followed by the open and junior men’s field who skied a 7.5k course, and then the open and junior women’s field who skied a 5k course. The final starters of the day were waves of elite men and women who started in waves of 10, all skiing a 7.5k course on sets of matched rollerskis provided by Swenor.
The competitor field has grown in size and strength every year. This year saw more than 180 skiers toe the line, with members of the US Ski Team, SMS T2, Craftsbury Green Racing Project, and junior and college skiers from across the United States.
For the second year in a row, the women’s course record fell; which truly shows the strength of the field and the increased popularity of the race. The women’s podium was made up of Katherine Ogden of Dartmouth College/SMS T2 in first place, followed by Sophie Caldwell of SMS T2/USST in second place, and Caitlin Patterson of Craftsbury Green Racing Project/USST in third place.
On the men’s side, the race was won by Simi Hamilton of SMS T2/USST. Ben Lustgarden of Craftsbury Green Racing Project took second place, followed by teammate Adam Martin also of Craftsbury Green Racing Project in third place.
The men’s masters winner was Eli Enman, followed by Joel Bradley in second place and Reid Greenberg in third place.
The women’s masters podium was made up of Kathy Maddock in first place, followed by Alex Jospe in second place and Tristin Adie in third place.