There’s nothing quite like watching racers in the zone, focused, going hard. It’s funny, my initial reaction is always gratefulness that I’m not in their shoes. Endurance feats like skimo racing require emmense mental preparation for the “discomfort” ahead, an observer doesn’t go through that so the first thought seeing racers givin’er is happiness that you’re not feeling what they are. But then as you see them all come in a mild sense of disappointment seeps in, and you think, “hmmmmm that looks like fun, I wish I was racing…”
There was good reason to wish you were racing last weekend at Golden Alpine Holidays. The weather was perfect for the first annual Selkirk Classic Skimountaineering Race and the race is the only Canadian event completely in the backcountry. It runs from their Meadow lodge to Sunrise lodge, climbs 2 major pks and runs the ridges between a few smaller bumps along the way. The guides Russ and Issac tapped into their intimate knowledge of the area and laid out a beauty course that really highlighted the stunning Esplanade terrain. Everyone at GAH was really interested in the race scene and was accommodating to suggestions for tweaking the course and logistics before race day.
The format of this years race evolved from last years Esplanade Epic, with racers flying in the day before the race, previewing the course with the guides then retiring to the lodge for a hearty meal and some social time before hitting the hay to be rested for a 9 o’clock start.
I was thrilled to be able to go in to the lodge and act as a course marshall volunteer and to help out any way I could. My station was the top of the first peak, Walkabi and racers flew up the first 300 meter climb like it was nothing. From Walkabi I could watch the racers head down the narrow, rocky ridge that they just climbed, skate across the broad open Paradise ridge before dropping into the shweezy heliski run “Better than Sex”. The prize of the route was Cuppola pk and after blazing to the top of that the crew dropped into the Sunrise drainage to merge with the “Hardcore” category race course.
Within the first 30 minutes of the race our very own homeboy Reiner Thoni was in the lead and stayed that way until the end. Hot on his heels was Jared Inouye of SLC(2nd) and Carey Smith(3rd) of Jackson Hole who’re both gunning for spots on the American National Team this winter.
From the Helicopter as we left the peaks, bowls and meadows of the Esplanade Range stretched out around us. With that gorgeous view I found myself tracing ridges and drawing imaginary lines of a grand course that would rival any of the European classics.