Returning to a normal Eastern Cup season was not a given at the beginning of the year. And despite some challenges with Mother Nature, our venues, fortified with manmade snow, created a landscape that brought joy to everyone involved in this competitive sphere. Taking a jog back to Quarry Road and the Roy Varney Opener it was almost surreal to see entire population of New England’s juniors back together racing at a high level, but perhaps most importantly enjoying each others company, albeit on a 1.6 kilometer loop. A spell of deep winter was perfectly timed for the back to back SuperTour/Eastern Cup weekends in Lake Placid and Craftsbury. Despite frigid temperatures these weekends saw near record participation and our first international races since the start of the pandemic. To bookend the season Dublin was prepared for an unseasonable meltdown less than two days before the races — bolstered by a preemptive snowmaking session and accommodations to courses and training times — the show went off in style!
The 2022 Dublin Double took on new form this year with two days of racing versus the two-start one-day event of the past. Saturday was the debut of head to head sprints at the Eastern Cup level on the Dublin School Trails. Firm and fast conditions were sporting for the competitors as they charged onto the serpentine loop six abreast. While there might have been a few bumps and stumbles along the way — the level of skiing and excitement for spectators was high all day. There was a top-30 round as well as additional rounds of 12 for U18/U20 and U16 athletes. Discussions have already begun about what the best way to maximize skiing time for more competitors as our fields continue to grow. Of note, the U16 fields have nearly doubled in size over the past 5 years.
Sunday racers tackled a “working” distance course on a 2.5km loop in the classic technique. Dublin’s trails provide excellent spectating and the courses were lined with parents, volunteers and fellow athletes rooting on their favorite skiers. U16’s skied 5km on the figure-8 loop while U18/U20 skiers completed a 1okm. Coaches seemed to really enjoy waxing for a true klister day and skiers had fast skis with great kick — making for a really fun and fair final day of Eastern Cup competition.
Dublin, like all four of the Eastern Cup venues, have not only improved their infrastructure each year, but continued t0 cultivate communities that love to ski and host events. We all owe a huge thank you to Quarry Road, Mt. Van Hoevenberg, Quarry Road and the Dublin for pulling out the stops and making the Eastern Cup what it is — one of the best race series in North America.
Some racers were laying it all on the line to try and earn a spot on the Junior National Team and all were out there to perform to their personal best. Again the camaraderie amongst teams but also across programs is so heartening to see — skiers and clubs are embracing the team aspect. We are seeing constant improvements that reflect and emulate the successes of our National Team’s success on the world’s stage — indeed several of our current Olympians were racing in this circuit just a year or two ago.
As we head into the post season there are still many options for racing — juniors will focus on Junior Nationals, U16 and Eastern High School Championships. The Popular Series continues this weekend with the Stratton Terrain Challenge. The series culminates with the Rikert Grand Prix where we will host end of the year Zak and Club awards, March 18-20.