The drive through the light snow, the clouds rolling over the mountain pass, all warned of another race at the Farm, Park City, was to be in a developing blizzard. The clouds pushed down the backside of the Wasatch and covered the sun. Slowly around 9:45 the clouds retreated back to the summits and the racing sparkled in sunshine. Sadly another year of local citizen racing came to an end.
Three hundred racers and race crew brought in the New Year at the White Pine venue in Park City, Utah. Best snow in years, bright sunshine, and cold temperatures invited a good crowd of skiers and spectators. Citizen rivalry, NCAA competitors, and Olympians heightened the excitement of this second race of the season. Billy DeMong raced his first race since retirement, Nick Hendrickson, formerly of USSA Nordic Combined, took the overall title away from Taylor and Brian Fletcher in addition to his University of Utah teammates. Two more University of Utah teammates, Veronika Mayerhofer and Josefin Nilsson placed first and second for the women’s open.
The Wasatch Citizens’ Race number two was as different as a race can be from race number one. Although only a week apart, the two races shared little. Race one was the first sprint race ever for the series, the fog lifted out of the Heber Valley to brilliant blue skies, the course climbed almost the whole race, the technique was classic, initially with individual starts, and the race was short (twice) and painful. Okay, painful was shared with both races.
A week later the freestyle race at the White Pine Nordic Center of Park City mixed clouds, sun, wind, and snowfall with wave starts and twice the number of skiers. A rare chance to try a sprint race was missed by too many Utah citizen skiers last week. For race two, the White Pine 5.4 km loop course, skied one to three times, wanders the golf course, among the condominiums, the ponds, and fairways with low climbs and gentle downhills.
The youngest juniors and sit-skiers skiers in the first six wave starts raced one to 5 kms sorted by age and difficulty class. These racers completed their races before the other eight waves began. The finish was spectacular. The older skiers of this set start first and ski farther. The youngest skiers start last and ski a shorter loop putting everyone at the finish at the same time. The junior finish is the most beautiful chaos of colorful outfits, screaming parents, and young skiers tangled and weaving among each other. Somehow the timing crew sorts them out as they come over the line. Sit-skier Brittany Fischer took her Wasatch first place to Soldier Hollow the following day to a repeat first American at the US Paralympics Nordic Skiing Championship sprint held at Soldier Hollow.
That left over 150 skiers itching to go. The Open Class and U18 skiers lined up first for wave eight followed by one mixed junior wave, four men’s waves, one women’s wave, and one mixed wave of novices and ages 60 and up. With one hundred and fifty skiers out on a 5.4 km course, skiing one, two, or three laps, many skiers formed traveling packs.
The Wasatch Citizens’ Race Series held its first ever Sprint race. All U12 skiers raced in heats as the fog lifted. Everyone older started at 15 second intervals for a qualifying round. Following lunch and the raffle, the racers were placed into heats in a close combination of age groups and qualifying times.
TUNA, The Utah Nordic Alliance, was formed to include clubs and ski teams from Salt Lake City, Park City, Ogden, and Logan, Utah. TUNA grooms the club track at Mountain Dell, supports youth and adult programs, and youth ski teams for the Intermountain Region of USSA (IMD). TUNA hosts the annual 600+ junior skier, IMD Super JNQ as the event is also the Wyoming State XC-ski Championship. TUNA also coordinates with the Wasatch Citizens’ Five Race Series and hosts both the TUNA Relay and the TUNA Mountain Challenge Duathlon. TUNA and the Utah Ski Archives created the following video for the Utah Ski Archive’s annual awards banquet:
Morgan Smyth brought her Team Soldier Hollow to meet up with TUNA to run Agony Hill behind the University of Utah. No one expected the upper 50s for November. Most skiers were chasing thier personal best though for at least one, this was a first run as run by her mother many years back …and she popped the fasted women’s time of the morning! Chances are you have been on Utah’s Agony Hill suffering your own 14 – 20 minutes of pain.
With a few more days of stunning weather, The Utah Nordic Alliance competition team rolled thier late afternoon intervals workout at Big Mountain Pass while the Jr. Comp team worked out at Sugarhouse Park. We are very excited to be working with a new coach, Steve Cook. He not only brings with him decades of Paralympic racing in cycling and Nordic skiing, but also brings a vision to grow the TUNA program starting with our Learn to Ski program and our Recreational League skiers.
The TUNA – Mountain Challenge Duathlon is behind us and the West Yellowstone Ski Festival in in our sights!
The Solitude Spring Fling is a fun and full day of racing, eating a hot grilled lunch, live band the River House, snow sculptures, costume contest and more racing starting with a three lap 7km distance race. At nine thirty the sun was burning through the last of the scattered clouds as the racers turned through the inner loop behind the Solitude Nordic Center and then headed out on the Lake Loop. Three laps later the winner was determined in the last three meters and a boot length.
The music and eating continued with snow sculptures partially finished when the 2pm relay sprints started. Several of the morning racers had left after the lunch, raffle, and awards though their places were easily filled by recruiting Solitude regulars who had come up unaware of the races but happily joined in on the fun. TUNA’s comp team skiers Wil Nichols and Caden McFarlane presented Lydia Strohl with a clear advantage as Lydia sprinted anchor out on the 1.2km Lake Loop. After she disappeared out of sight, Aram Hajian (2002 Olympian and Solitude Nordic director) had been recruited to anchor another team and he flew out in a blur, chasing after Lydia. Watch the video for the winner.
No one dared mention it for fear it would happen for a third year in a row. Even now it is troubling to say the race went off with only a minor flurry and a few moments of wind. The finale of the great 2014 Wasatch Citizens’ Series, the race series of citizens, Olympians, US, and foreign ski teams was heartily contested in every age group. A new record was set for finishing in the lap lane and lapping through the finish lane… the sorting of results continues 24 hours later.
Watch the wild ride of the 4am re-designed route for the Round Valley Round-Up, Park City, Utah. The groomer woke the race director at 4am to tell him parts of the lower course washed away after dark and insisted the race be cancelled. Instead the two worked with what trail remained and designed a collection of smaller loops. Unfortunately, the remaining higher trails were narrow and twisted in many senses of the phrase – but fun to watch and technical to ski.