The White Mountain Classic Recap
provided by Damian Bolduc (NWVE)
The White Mountain Classic picked up where last weekend’s Popular Racing left off. It was another bluebird ski day, this time in Jackson. Clear skies prevailed with little to no wind. Although frigid, skiers were excited for the day, the return of the Marathon Series, and were prepared to put their best foot forward for their home state in the Northeast State Championship. A mass start classic half-marathon was just the thing to energize the mostly Masters field.
Skiers had a chilly commute seeing temperatures dip in the valleys into the minus twenties. It seemed warmer air was aloft, though the hilltops were still showing negative single digits. The weather app showed some positive numbers for Jackson, but that did not seem to be the case upon arrival. No matter, skiers took it in stride as it made the wax decision easy and minimized the desire to do a long warm-up. People were reunited again with faces they had not seen in close to two years.
The snow conditions were packed powder, and coverage was excellent. The tracks were solid due to grooming in the frigid temperatures. There was no wind, so no windblown sections. The stadium quickly funneled into three, then two lanes. The sun warmed the skiers, but idleness quickly turned to shivering, so skiers stayed on the move.
The course was similar to recent years, and conditions were good enough to allow organizers to have the skiers return to the start to finish the race. A welcome decision as it put them closer to their warm-ups or the shelter of their sun-warmed vehicles. Skiers started and made a quick left, skiing a full lap around the golf course before looping through the start area for another half lap. They were then directed up Yodel, a difficult climb, crossing the road to the Eagle Mountain Trail Network. Once across the road, the course moved onto the Homologated Race Loop utilized in the Jackson Jaunt New Years’ weekend. This section of trail features very rolling terrain with some challenging climbs before the rolling downhill known as the Wave. It flowed nicely in the ideal classic conditions. After completing the Homologated Loop, skiers were sent to Alices Alley, then Wildcat Valley, before heading back to the lap area via the Wall at Eagle House. Skiers doing 22km bared left to do another lap, and all skiers returned to the start by retracing their steps down Yodel.
With five minutes to go, the start area filled in quickly. Skiers took their spots, and self-seeding seemed more accurate this weekend. Kenneth Kimball gave some quick instructions and a one-minute warning. Some skiers were still on the sideline, having not arrived in enough time for the official start – notably Victor Golovkin (Freedom Trail Nordic). The race started on time. Most skiers got on course clean with only a minor mishap affecting a couple of skiers. Kris Freeman (Waterville Valley) was uncontested to take the lead, though the elite pack remained with him for the initial lap. Chris Burnham (NWVE) decided to hang on for as long as he could, getting drawn out, and dropped on Yodel, and then soloing the rest of the race.
Packs of racers began forming. The first pack worked well together, pushing Dennis Page (Nansen) to his best race ever. Mark Johnson (Ford Sayre), Darren Piotrow (Mt. Washington), Charlie Cobb (MNC), and Tristan Williams (PVR40) worked a solid rotation while they chased Kris and Chris. A bit further back, another group formed with Thomas Clayton (NWVE) happy to have the company of Silas Eastman (Jackson XC). Luke Shullenberger (NWVE) worked with Nate Laber (MNC) the whole race. Colin Pogue (Ford Sayre) caught them mid-race and stayed for a bit before slowly increasing his lead. Kirk Siegel (BOC) was also in the mix, matching the demanding pace on the downhills. A group of conservative starters made their way into the top twenty on the first half of the Eagle Mountain loop. Ari Ofsevit (CSU), Chris Bean (Stowe Nordic), and David Herr (Unattached) moved through the ranks settling in to round out the top twenty.
Bill Donahue (Gunstock), Stephen Wright (NWVE), Jessica Marion (Dirigo), and I skied together until the end of the first lap when Mark Isselhardt (Craftsbury) bridged up to us. Mark was skiing well and away from Bob Burnham (EMXC) and Rob Bradlee (Freedom Trail Nordic). Stephen latched onto Mark, where the rest of us could not match the pace. Sarah Pribram (NWVE) skied solo, although maintained a visual on Rob and Bob for much of the race and as they overtook their final victim (me) as we closed to the finish. Sarah was okay with the situation as there was no wind, and she could make full use of the trail when needed. Brad Clarke (BOC) had some company for the race before tiring out the junior skier Teo Steverlynck-Horne (Freeport High School). The Freeport team was an exciting addition as they were skiing very well, but some lacked the endurance of the older skiers. They were also caught in situations that long precede their existence where they learned that the old folks’ race hard even after 20km. One that was in the vicinity of Ian Blair (BOC), JoAnn Hanowski (Craftsbury), Jonathan Rodd (NWVE), John Mathieu (Maine Nordic), and Jessica Bolduc (NWVE) was given a hard time by Joel Hinshaw (Unattached) that an M6 was demolishing him. He replied that it was probably some Olympian because, after all, this was a NENSA race! The M6 in question was ’88, and ’92 Olympian Joe Holland (Woodstock Ski Runners) – smart kid! Mary Heller Osgood (Putney) was closing on the group. Another Olympian, Trina Hosmer (Stowe Nordic), was also stalking close by. Trina was skiing with Chris Osgood (Putney) and New England’s most eligible points racer Todd Taska (Unattached). Todd has resisted the overtures of several clubs for decades, including the legendary recruiting tool, a ham and cheese sandwich, to remain unattached.
Racing did not let up on the course. Ann Burnham (CSU) led a pack of Masters women, guiding Amy Martin (Dartmouth) and Rose Long (Freedom Trail Nordic) along the technical course. Rose Long was returning to skiing, now as a Master, after more than a decade away from competition. Jud Hartmann (NWVE) was psyched to be back in a Marathon Series race. The half distance was a good option as he has only skied a handful of times this season, but you would not know it, seeing how he owned the M9 category. Bruce Katz (Unattached) was similarly happy about the return of the Marathon Series, finishing with the “best beardsicle” of the day. M8’s, Richard Garrison (Freedom Trail), Gordon Scannell (Unattached), Jerome McDougle (Acceleration Project), Daniel Baumert (Maine Nordic), and Lisa Doucett (CSU) connected in one of the deepest age groups in the race. Cipperly Good (NWVE) was happy that she was close to Lisa in the results. Cipperly had a mishap with her race skis in Acadia and was on her backup Atomics from high school. Christine Pasterczyk (Freedom Trail) led the next pack, including Kevin Donohoe and John Wigglesworth (Drifter XC). Karen Alence MNC was happy to spend her day in the amazing conditions at Jackson, taking advantage of her knowledge of the course from her experience at the Jackson Jaunt.
There was no shortage of legends in the 14km event. Jim Fredericks (Craftsbury) recovered from a hard crash going up Yodel at the beginning of the race. It took him a bit to recompose himself, but he was impressively gaining ground once he got onto the challenging Eagle Mountain Trails. Bob Gray (Putney) was equally remarkable. Jim Drew (Craftsbury) was happy with his second in his division, seeing that Jim Fredericks was on a mission after being taken out. John Brodhead (Craftsbury) was more comfortable in his element, having started his season with the Craftsbury Scramble last weekend. David Hosmer (Stowe) looked solid striding on the Wildcat Trail as he made his way to the finish. Rose Buckingham (Maine Nordic) was the lone racer from Connecticut. She will have to round up some more skiers from the Nutmeg State to complete a team next year. Larry and Sara Mae Berman (CSU) were popular on the course. Many skiers gave supportive accolades as the couple made this one of their regular competitive stops on the race circuit. Their presence always lends tremendous support to their teams and inspires all. Racers from both distances continued to trickle in, with Ken Blatt (Unattached) rounding out the day. Ken was thankful and appreciative of the preparation and organization of yet another fantastic event.
Tabulation for the State Championship went down to the wire. Only four points separated 1st and 4th, with 3rd place being decided in a tiebreak. Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont fielded complete teams with New York and Connecticut incomplete. New Hampshire and Maine tied for third, going into a tiebreak with their 8th skier. New Hampshire edged Maine by one point. Massachusetts was second, with a few of their top contenders not attending this year. Vermont showed up in force, winning with a perfect score of 7 and plenty in reserve to settle any ties.
The volunteers and staff at the White Mountain Classic did an exceptional job hosting the event. Skiers were grateful for the opportunity – Popular Racing continues to see growth, and the Marathoners were back. NENSA staff Amie Smith and Fred Bailey were on hand, giving enthusiastic support to the racers. Wally Good and Jamie Doucett gave personalized cheers while Jamie documented the action with photography (See Link). There were also enthusiastic skiing fans on the furthest points of the course, giving skiers a boost when they needed it most! The field was peppered with just as many Olympians as Freeport High School Racers, and it was great to have the youth testing their endurance among those of us a little further along in our lifelong enjoyment of the sport.
The Gunstock Freestyle
On a calm Sunday morning, skiers gathered at the Gunstock Nordic Center for a decidedly warmer race day compared to the day before. It was interval start day – you versus the clock. Skiers took off at 30 second intervals and made their way around the very nicely prepared 4.4km loop, which featured rolling terrain, modest climbs and good cruising flats. The open men skied three laps, while the open women and U16 boys did two laps, and the Bill Koch skiers did one.
The skiers were thrilled to be racing in the woods! One stated he was “so happy to get off the golf course.” Many others were very appreciative that they were racing at all, given the restrictions off the past year and the low snow fall thus far this season. Gunstock’s crew has done an excellent job thus far this season laying out manmade snow on their trails. That combined with the natural snow they received in the last couple weeks made it look and feel very much like mid-winter skiing on and off the trails.
Several athletes competing at Gunstock did the White Mountain Classic/Gunstock Freestyle double, but that did not seem to slow them down. Similarly many of the junior athletes raced in the New Hampshire Coaches Series race the day before, but they too were all smiles at Gunstock. Even the touring center director, Willy Graves, felt inspired to dust off his racing gear and join in the fun.
In addition to the good skiing and racing, the Gunstock hosts put out a very nice spread of home made tomato soup, grilled cheese, pickles and snacks to be enjoyed by the participants and volunteers. If you haven’t experienced this event yet, this is definitely one to put on your short list for next season!
The Prospect Sprints
Prospect Mountain put on an awesome sprint competition on Sunday with a “Royal Court” format. This format allowed for all skiers to ski in a qualification followed by three rounds of head to head racing. With a diverse field of ages and abilities — the first year of this annual event — allowed for a lot of fun for all the competitors. The sprint course at Prospect is challenging with two major climbs.
Fin Bailey from the Stratton Mountain School set the pace on the day, handily winner the qualification and every round he competed in. SMS coach, Matt Boobar, remarked that the race was excellent preparation for the upcoming SuperTour and Eastern Cup this weekend in Lake Placid. On the women’s side it was Miley Bletzer who led the charge with a top qualification and final placement. Other highlights included the coaches from Williams College, Steve Monsulick and Annika Martell putting in strong showings in front of the enthusiastic cheering of the Ephs athletes — clearly crowd favorites. There was also a strong showing from the Overland staff as well as local legend, Tim VanOrden.
In total there were 43 athletes toeing the line for the first edition of this super fun event that captures the essence of an inclusive citizens race. Hats off to the Dave’s and Steve for making a great event — we look forward to more sprinting action at Prospect next year!
Up next we have the Lake Placid SuperTour/Eastern Cup on January 29-30th. Followed by the Henchey Cup SuperTour/UVM Nordic Carnival/EC at Craftsbury – February 4-6th, which includes a popular race on the 6th as well as the Flying Moose Classic in Bethel, ME on February 5th.