Spring Skiing and Racing

Well, it seems like spring is just around the corner. One day I heard Saturday would be clear. Then it was Sunday. Now it’s Monday. Rest assured, the weather will clear and we will have the benefit of 700 inches of snow at higher elevations. Which leaves us a lot to work with.

Recently, the local race schedule has been a little bit empty. The Gold Rush postponement was a setback, not least for people who had traveled a long ways to be there. As a registration helper the day before, no one can say that Royal Gorge/Far West did not make an all out effort to hold the race. The racing is not nearly over yet. There is a race or two every weekend from now until April 16th. For anyone who has not yet moved on to their spring sport, now is the time to be on snow having fun and maybe doing some technique too.

I paraphrase Colby ski coach Tracey Cote: In November no one thinks twice about driving 10 hours roundtrip to Canada for 2 days on marginal snow. In March people pass up a foot of base even though it’s right outside their door. (Shameless plug: The Colby Ski Trails are actually right outside the door. Having two final exams in one day does not prevent ski training.)

In our case, March is nearly over and April looks like a full month of great skiing. For anyone inclined toward backcountry skiing, May and June are also fair game. Pack your swimsuit and the sunscreen. It’s time for spring skiing.

The Great Ski Race

The first thing I heard about ski racing in Truckee and Tahoe was that this event is unmissable. To be precise, I heard it when working at Paco’s Fun Race last year, which was just my second day living in Truckee. It is an epic event.

I skied the course yesterday and it was awesome. My skis had a much-too-warm wax but the course was looking really good. It’s useful to see the speed bumps soon after soup station 1 and also the more technical turns as the course enters Sierra Meadows. I am psyched up for the race. It will be my first  start since my trip to Camden, Maine, for a family gathering. (By the way, Camden has good skiing if you don’t mind a crusty adventure.) Hopefully I still have the magic, or at least some V2 technique.

The race is this Sunday and the fee goes up by $10 for day of race entry. Don’t miss it!

Marathon Day in Mammoth

Junior Melanie Swick cruises to 6th place in the varsity race

I am not referring to the skiing marathon that takes place in Mammoth every April. This marathon was the other kind filled with driving and waxing. Friday was the first day I had been to Mammoth’s Tamarack XC since I was 10 or 11 years old. It’s a distant memory from the time when I thought that all classic skis have fishscales and that skating is just for ice rinks. It was strange to come back ~15 years later as a coach.

But enough nostalgia. Incline Nordic had an awesome day on Friday! I am told the weather and the waxing conditions were vastly better than they have been for several years. Freshman Evan Vomund and Juniors Melanie Swick and Ashley Vomund posted some of their best results yet in high school league racing. Evan notched his season best result with 2nd in open division and a stellar 10th overall when varsity and open results are combined. Melanie placed 6th in the varsity division, a season best for her as well. Ashley was 10th in open division and 13th in combined results. With top finishers coming in around 20 minutes, the course was slightly longer than other distance races in the high school racing circuit. Our skiers loved the course. View complete results and photos of the race.

The ride back was long. It builds team bonding or character or something else that’s good for you I am sure. I think everyone gained a richer appreciation of how hard Mammoth High has to work just to show up every Friday for 2 months of competition. To steal a page from Gus, I am going to share something from our admittedly trashy playlist on the way home. Dragostea din tei is a song everyone can enjoy, but no one can understand. The video is new to me and it’s sort of entertaining.

Tahoe Rim Tour

The Tahoe Rim Tour on Sunday was a blast. Classic skiing is not usually my strong point. On the other hand, skiing 6.5km uphill with virtually no technique transitions is a great opportunity for me. (Downhills, technical turns, and frequent double-poling/striding transitions cost me lots of time in most other races.) After starting at North Tahoe High School, more than 100 classic skiers climbed a steep trail (Tahoe XC’s Gold), descended the “fiberboard freeway” for about 1.6km, and then climbed 800+ feet to Starratt Pass. I smiled at the feed station-or tried anyway-and held on tight for the descent to Northstar XC. In most races, the downhill tuck is a position of rest, but it gets pretty tough for such a long descent. I will confess that I had to stand slightly every now and then. It cost me time though. I need to do more tuck-jump exercises to hang in for that long. If you watch the linked video, spend a 1-2-3 count in the low tuck before jumping.

From what I hear the 4th annual Tour had the best weather seen yet for that weekend. Thanks to the director Don Heapes and all of his volunteers for an incredible event. I will be there next year, no matter what the conditions.

Back In College… Kind Of

The RMISA races in Soldier Hollow, Utah this weekend provided some great reminiscing about skiing for The Buffaloes. The weather was great and the racing was fun, it was a good weekend.

Fortunately, my skis for the 20km classic mass start on Saturday were a double whammy: very slick when I tried to kick and very slow when I tried to glide. The operative word in those sentences is TRIED. Although this was very demoralizing during the race, as I watched my competitors easily kick and glide their way around the Olympic caliber course, I learned (or relearned rather) a valuable lesson: Hang in there!

While I was forced to double pole up four out of the six major climbs and was repeatedly dropped on descents, I just hung in there and put myself in the “survival mode” mindset. By skiing smart in tactical spots on the course, taking advantage of drafting, and a little down-home determination, I was able to hang on to the leading group and still have a decent result.

In a mass start, “hanging on” to the group, regardless of the situation, is a valuable ability. Keeping that mindset on a tough day will serve you very well.


Back in the Groove

IHS Freshman Evan Vomund skies through the lap halfway through the Royal Gorge 5km High School open race

I haven’t raced much since the Snowshoe Thompson race following Christmas. I was planning to fly East to visit with grandparents but switched to a roadtrip to Los Angeles when NYC got buried in snow. (About 7,000 flights were canceled in just a few days.) I did the first Tahoe Donner night cup race, a 5km classic race. Somehow I managed to blow up in a 5km! My lungs started burning after 1 or 1.5km and the oxygen debt took me further and further downhill (not in the good way). I guess I need I need to wear a balaclava or buff even when the temperature seems OK. I feel like a rookie.

I have been training as hard as ever though. Monday I am racing the Sierra Skogsloppet, the second Junior National Qualifier and another notch in the Sierra Ski Chase. That will launch me into the Tahoe Rim Tour (26km classic division) six days later and the Alpenglow 20km skate race at Tahoe XC the following weekend. I am going to have a lot more race kms than I did in the earlier part of this season. Last year Alpenglow was my first race since I only got on snow Jan. 2nd after my move to Truckee.

Finally, Incline Nordic enjoyed some great weather at yesterday’s skate race at Royal Gorge. The loop was short and fast with few hills. After some nasty weather at the Kirkwood opener and the Snowshoe Thompson, the California rays are back. I’m sure alpiners are bummed by the shortage of fresh pow, but as an XC skier, I couldn’t care when or how we get our spring base.

Merry Christmas

Laura Henze hands off to Julie Falke

The Incline High nordic team is featured in the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza after the CNISSF high school and middle school opener. Pictures cannot really convey the brutal wind and icy precipitation that was hammering the athletes for 3km loop at Kirkwood XC on December 17th. As a small team that had to compete in a 3-person relay format, our results are hard to read. A team with our two boys Evan Vomund and Ryan Collins returned their team from 10th place to 6th place. I saw incredible effort from very new skiers who had been on snow for only a week or two.

Tomorrow is the first Junior National Qualifier. The 10km classic Snowshoe Thompson Race at Auburn Ski Club could be difficult. There is a good chance that falling snow will make for unpredictable wax conditions. Wednesday afternoon the Incline Nordic team worked on technical uphill climbs at Tahoe XC. If you haven’t made a few embarassing attempts at skiing up a slanted and uneven trail on classic skis, it’s a really good idea. No matter how fit you might be, reading the trail properly and being nimble on your equipment will make all the difference in a crowded race with people cheering on the sidelines.

Merry Christmas!