For many skimo racers, the first weekend of January is the real kickoff to the skimo race season. The US National Championships at Jackson Hole on Saturday followed by the Grand Targhee Classic at Grand Targhee on Sunday make for a great set of destination races that test the strength and endurance of even the best skimo racer. With the ISMF World Championships February 9-15 in Put Saint Vincent in the French Alps the top 3 finishers on Saturday and top 2 finishers on Sunday (who had not qualified on Saturday) would secure a place on the US National Team. The hopes of going to World's had a deep field for both the races. The weekend was bound to be exciting and it was sure to be a very competitive and close race. As many of us talked on Friday night we all agreed that with the forecast calling for -15F at the starting line skin care would be critical. We also all agreed that any small mistake with skins, a transition, or a descent would most likely cost that person a podium position.Thanks go Andy Dorais for this great play by play of Saturday's race:As always, the race started ridiculously and stupidly fast before settling into to a nice rhythm. As the drag race turned vertical, Jason Dorais and Tom Goth passed Marshall Thomson and set the pace out front, stringing out the field. The lead group missed the first left onto a cat track traverse. Racers yelled to notify them, they descended a short distance back to the traverse and the drag race was back on.
Race Start (photo by Domonique Maak)
Quickly, the field sorted itself out before the turned up a technical ridge for the last 1,000' feet of the first climb (this deviated from the traditional upper groomer). 3,000' later at the top of the first climb, the top of the field was Marshall Thomson, Tom Goth, Jason Dorais, and Andy Dorais followed closely by Luke Nelson, Bryan Wickenhauser, Scott Simmons, John Gaston, Max Taam, and on and on in hot pursuit.
The first descent was a long mogul field with good chalky snow allowing for a fast descent to the transition for the 2nd climb. The descent and transition had a few placement changes, but it was still early in the race and anything could happen with over 5,000' left to climb.The next descent was more of the same with steep bumps down chalky snow. With all the top racers being extremely strong climbers, the race was coming down to a downhill battle of who could ski the steep technical terrain the fastest. The 3rd climb led to the 1st of 2 booters. With a lot of uphill runners having transitioned to skimo racing, the booters have turned into near sprints for the strong runners like Andy, Jason, and Luke. These guys all pose as much a threat on foot as on skis.From the top of the boot back, there was a short traverse, then a quick descent down Coomb Couloir followed by another traverse and then the skin up to the famous Corbet's Couloir booted. At this point, the lead group was just under 2 hours of racing for over 6,000' of climbing and there was only 3 minutes separating the top 9 racers. The top of the Corbet's booter is always exciting with a series of ladders strung together with Voile Straps. Jason D was the first off the ladder followed by John G, Tom G, and Scott S.
First 6 topped out (photo by Alex Simpson)
Jon Brown on the Corbet's Ladder (photo by Alex Simpson)
From the top of Corbet's it is a quick skin to the top of the tram and then a quad busting descent of close to 4,000' with a mixture of steeps, bumps, groomers, and ski catching willow bushes. Several positions changed during the descent with John G showing his superior ski skills to take the lead and other strong racers like Max T moving up in the pack as well. You expect the last climb to be short based on the course map, but this is US Skimo Nationals so you are not awarded that luxury. The last climb is another 1,300' of technical, icy mogul skinning. This climb seems to be more about holding on with shot legs and preventing a final skin failure. From the top of the last climb with around 8,600' of climbing behind you, there is a final 2,000' descent starting with moguls and ending with a speed race down the groomer to the finish line. Jason D and John G left the final transition together, but once again John used his amazing downhill skills to take the lead and the win. Jason thought he had second place in the bag only to find Luke had passed Tom G and was on his ski tails chasing him down.The race was a great finish with only 70 seconds separating the top 4 finishers. The final finish order was John G (2:30:09), Jason D 2:3055), Luke N (2:30:56), Tom (2:31:19), and only 9 minutes separating the top 9 finishers. The women's race was a one woman race for Janelle Smiley who finished in 3:07:48 followed by Jari Kirkland (3:33:33) and Meredith Edwards (3:42:35). Full results and photos can be found here.
Men's Podium (photo by Nate Brown)
Women's Podium (photo by Nate Brown)
Thanks to the great sponsors Gore-Tex, OR, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Dynafit, La Sportiva, Hammer Nutrition, Spur Bar, Mountain Khakis, Stio, Smith Optics, and Snake Creek Brewing for their support of ski mountaineering.
After a tough day on Saturday, the racers focused on recovery and refueling (with both healthy foods and beer) in preparation for Sunday's Grand Targhee Classic. Sunday brought most of the same tough racers to the starting line for a relaxing 10:30 AM start. Most racers found a significant warm-up required to get the lactic acid out of their legs and for the 45 minutes prior to the race you could see lots of lycra climbing up and skiing down the short warm up section. Unfortunately, I don't have a full place by place for the Targhee Classic so I keep it short and sweet.After a short course briefing by Andy Williams (the race director), the starting gun went off. The race started with the usually ridiculous sprint with several racers like Tom Goth and Marshall Thomson who had just missed the podium on Saturday out for blood. Similar to Jackson, this race starts out with a gradual groomer climb which quickly gets VERY steep leading to some challenging skinning. The lead group made the first climb of 2,000' to Fred's Mountain in around 25 minutes setting a blazing pace. The first descent was a pleasant moderate angle mogul slope lining up racers for the second climb of around 1,300' which includes the booter to Peaked Mountain. The second descent can only be described as HARD. The top section skied well which lead to the lower section of stumps, bumps, frozen chunder, and anything else you can imagine. This slowed the pace significantly and definitely lent itself to the strong skiing skills of people like John Gaston and Bryan Wickenhauser. The final climb is a hard 2,000' back up to the top of Peaked Mountain followed by one of the best ski runs of the weekend down the bowl with soft snow (almost powder) and onto a fast groomer to the finish line.The men's race ended up John Gaston (1:36:00), Tom Goth (1:37:14), and Marshall Thomson (1:38:07). The women's race followed similar suit to Saturday with the exception of having Gemma Arro i Ribot of Catalunya (by way of the Wasatch) placing second. Women's results were Janelle Smiley (1:55:47), Gemma Arro i Ribot (1:59:21), and Meredith Edwards (2:19:37). Full results.
Men's Podium (photo by Chad Brackelsberg)
Women's Podium (photo by Chad Brackelsberg)
Thanks to Grand Targhee Resort, Habitat, Mountain Khakis, and Smith Optics for making this race possible.
A huge congratulations to John Gaston and Janelle Smiley on their back to back wins.Congratulations also to the first members of the US National Team
- John Gaston
- Jason Dorais
- Luke Nelson
- Tom Goth
- Marshall Thomson
- Janelle Smiley
- Jari Kirkland
- Meredith Edwards
Next up the Heathen Challenge on January 12 to determine the final 3 men and 3 women of the National Team.