Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sunlight and Powderhorn 2014-By Brian Smith

Ski mountaineer racing is now in full throttle as we are mid-season now.  Used gear has been sold, new gear has been bought and companies are running out of stock.  The local town series races at CBMR will have their last morning event this coming Saturday, (a team event). The last two events will be in the afternoon given the longer daylight hours. Even though we are still seeing the sub zero temperatures in the mornings we are getting mid 30's by mid-day.  A sign that we are moving into the later half of winter.
I have now competed in 4 COSMIC events: Wolf Creek, Irwin, Sunlight and Powderhorn.  My results have improved with each event and I feel I am on track to claim a national title in March.  My last post covered WC and Irwin so this write-up will cover Sunlight and Powderhorn.  
Unlike last season at Sunlight with a humid and extremely cold sub zero start we were greeted with 20's and sunshine.  Team GO-CB made the drive in the am leaving Gunny at 2:30am Saturday morning due to a long day of driving with FedEx Friday.  With the exception of the Dorais brothers and Tom Goth from Salt Lake most of the heavy hitters made the start including the undefeated John Gaston.  The start was fast as usual with Simmons, Marshall and myself setting a quick early tempo to separate the field.  At the top of the first climb, Marshall was breaking trail at a comfortable pace and had a group of 7 from behind regrouping!  At the top of the second climb was the same scenario leading to a boot pack. After a good steep/technical descent down the Heathen we hit our last skin/boot pack.  There was a lot of shuffling with crashes and skin failures leading to the boot pack but at the top is where the final selection happened.  John took the lead and made a huge effort to drop Marshall and I.  Marshall clawed back soon after and I managed to make contact a few minutes later.  One last trail break near the summit brought the pace to a screeching hault and caused a furious scramble to the final skin strip.  John was quickest leaving 1 second in from of me.  I was about 2-3 seconds ahead of Marshall.  Somehow I never made it inside of John's slipstream as he tucked to the entrance to the Heathen.  John was quick to drop in and carried his speed to the catwalk at the bottom.  I had a brief pause to make sure I was headed the right direction at the exit and that was it, 11 seconds.   Marshall 3rd, Tamm 4th, Brown 5th and Wick 6th.  For the women, Stevie Kremer was 2nd as well only 11 seconds behind Sari Anderson.  The real killer was the $500 payout to the men's and women's winners only.  Oh well, that's racing and John earned it.
The next weekend would be Powderhorn.  Another weekend of warmer temperatures and rando fun.  John Gaston was unfortunately sick and did not make the trip.  Teammate Bryan "Wick" Wickenhauser couldn't make the trip either due to work/family commitments.  We did however have 2013 national team member and Grand Traverse Champion Tom Goth from Salt Lake. With Simmons and Thomson in attendance as well we were looking at another barn burner start.  Simmons, Goth and I set the tempo early with Goth doing most of the work. Simmons was having skin issues on the first climb and was out of the picture early.  I stayed glued to Goth on the second climb and Marshall was dangling off the back. On the last climb Marshall took up the lead and launched his first big effort.  Goth was gapped immediately and I passed when Marshall was up to 10 seconds.  After 5 minutes in the pain cave I bridged back to Marshall and stayed with him accross the top to the final skin strip.  I had a couple seconds on Marshall heading out.  I stayed pinned down cannonball to the last pitch where I lost pin flagging.  When I saw the paint in the snow down the last pitch I pointed it.  This time I was the one on the top step with a 12 second gap to 2nd.  Goth finished 3rd about 2 minutes back.  Max Tamm was 4th and teammate Jon Brown was 5th.  For the women Stevie returned to the top step with a win ahead of Sari this time.
Team GO-CB continues to race the: Ski-Trab Gara Aero World Cup ski with Trab Attico Race bindings, Ski-Trab world cup vertical carbon poles and SCARPA Alien 1.0 Carbon boot.  The Gara Aero WC ski is much more stable with the Attivo dampening and wider tip with a new early rise.  All gear has been rigorously test by the team and has more than met our expectations for a top race set up.
Next weekend is the Town Series Team Event on Saturday with the Alley Loop Nordic race a week later. I am thinking of throwing my hat in the ring for the 42K skate race again for training.  Thank for reading and pray for snow! 

Monday, December 9, 2013

2013 COSMIC-Irwin/LaSportiva SkiMo Race Report by Brian Smith

Saturday December 7th 2013 was the 3rd annual COSMIC ski mountaineering event presented by La Sportiva.  Last season the event was cancelled due to lack of snow and the late season reschedule was cancelled due to a lack of pre-registered athletes.  This season we have had great consistent snow since early October with a good 6-8 inches falling earlier in the week.  The event sold out and racers were scrambling to get sleds for rides and tows to make the 10am start.  70+ athletes toed the start line and skinned to Scarp Ridge.  Even with the course being set the day before, the track was filled in near the ridge due to wind and a storm cycle that moved in race day.  
2013 Grand Traverse champions Marshall Thomson and Tom Goth set the early tempo.  Last year's national champion Jon Gaston and I were tucked in behind.  Jon took a good crash on the first descent and fell back from the lead group.  Max Tamm who was closing in by the top had caught us and crushed the downhill as usual and we had 4 together again before the second climb.  I had a great transition and opened a gap heading to the boot pack section.  I caught the trail breakers unfortunately and by the top of the ascent I was caught by Tom and Marshall.  Max again came from behind and blazed by all of us with another amazing descent.  Marshall took some big crashes and was out of contention before the last climb.

Tom had the best transition and lead the way.  As I started up I noticed my poles seemed long and my straps were tight.  Tom pulled out and I led for another 5 minutes and I pulled out.  Jon then took over after making up a lot of time after crashing.  I kept Jon in check to transition but was completely red lined.  I had about 10 seconds to make up to take the race but took a huge crash on the last descent landing inverted in a tree well.  I manged to get my skis facing downhill and came out on the cat road about 2 minutes from the finish and saw Tom just in front having issues skating.  I went by him quickly and sprinted to the finish, taking second by about 5 seconds.  Jon was only 30 seconds in front as well.  After finishing the race I found my poles next to Tom's skis.  I was able to beat Tom in a skate with his longer poles!  Still a bit dumbfounded by the pole switch.  
After the Wolf Creek race two weeks ago when I didn't have the fitness to stay with the leaders I fell I am now competitive with the top athletes.  I am looking forward to stepping it up one more spot to take the win at Sunlight next month.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

COSMIC Kick-Off At Wolf Creek - Brian Smith

After missing the inaugural event last year with the big powder day ski afterwards, I wasn't about to let another one pass me by.  Team GO-CB made it a full day driving down the morning of the event.  Great weather and clear roads made the trip enjoyable and uneventful. For the men; Wick, Jon and I made the race.  Jari was unable to attend due to a family commitment.  Our newest member Stevie Kremer made the trip down with her boyfriend Marshall Thomson.  Everyone was pumped for the first event of the season, anxious to see where everyone stacked up in competition.  The team was outfitted with the SCARPA Alien 1.0 carbon boots, Ski-Trab Gara Aero World Cup skis/Race Attico bindings/Vertical Carbon pole.

The start was postponed 30 minutes due to avalanche control.  Everyone was looking forward to a great snow day with awesome coverage and some killer skiing afterwards. The start was fast as everyone would expect with Marshall and Scott Simmons taking turns ramping up the pace for the first 20 minutes.  Mountain bike pro and ski-mo rookie Colin Cares and I were able to stay in contact for the first climb with Wick and Jon close behind.  I made my way to the front on the descent but took a wrong turn loosing about 45 seconds to the lead group.  Scott, Marshall and Wick were leading the charge.  I passed Wick and caught Scott and Marshall before the top of the second climb.  The 3 of us stayed together until the last 5 minutes of the 3rd climb when Marshall and Scott were ready to vie for the win.  I watched the showdown unfold over the last skin up to the finish with Marshall outpacing Scott to take the race.  Scott finished a very strong 2nd about 20 seconds back and I strode across about a minute back for 3rd. Wick came in about 5 minutes later followed by Colin then Jon for 4th,5th and 6th respectively.

 Stevie won the women's race in dominant fashion and Jon's girlfriend Amy Biesel raced her first race class event and ended up 4th despite taking a wrong turn and doing a longer race!

 The Alien boots were plenty stiff for the downhills and provided awesome articulation for the low angle classic skinning.  I was more impressed with the float of the new Gara Aero World Cup ski.  The wider shovel and early rise tip allowed the ski to float amazingly well in the deep powder.

The powder skiing in the afternoon was amazing.  We all skied for almost 4 hours with many top to bottom runs.  Thighs were burning and mouths were gaping!  We had the company of locals Scott and Miles to show us around the resort.  We were able to put our Magico skis to more powder testing.  The 117mm shovel floated so well and the edge control of the 80mm waist made for effortless turning.  Can't wait to ski again at Wolf Creek.  Next event on tap is the Irwin La Sportiva event December 7th.  Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

2013 Crested Butte Ski-Mountaineering Race By: Brian Smith

The COSMIC event at Crested Butte Mountain Resort has had many changes over the past few seasons.  Last year the event included a very technical ropes section called the "Guides Ridge".  In addition the event was doubled as a COSMIC event and was also the North American Championships.  We had another very low snow year as we did last season and couldn't use the extreme areas for descents.  In addition the Guides Ridge was pulled from the course as well.  Race director Bryan Wickenhauser and CBMR managed to make a longer and quite technical course using Snodgrass Mountain and skinning up the extreme runs on the mountain.  The final course covered 17 miles and 6800 vertical feet of elevation gain.
Race day was not a typical one at the resort.  There were low clouds and temperatures in the mid 20's.  Many racers chose to use high-fluoro wax on their skins for better glide in the wet/warm conditions.  The race started at 8 am at the base area.  We gained warming house hill and then ascended columbine hill to the top of the Gold Link lift.  The low cloud cover made for very poor visibility with flat light.  Scott Simmons and I pushed the pace up the first climb and I was first to descend to the maintenance building off of Gothic Road.  When I started to take my skis off to re-skin for Snodgrass, the toe piece on one ski was jammed.  I initially thought it was snow/ice under the binding until my body weight would not release the spring.  After forcefully hammering on the binding it eventually released.  I found a piece of plastic under the binding that came free with my pole tip after working on it for a while.  When I went to to re-tension the toe piece the lever flopped back to the ski.  The toe lever had gone past the tension plate under the binding when setting the tension at the start of the race.  When I went to release the binding it caught the plate and bound-up under the binding.  I set out to make up lost time, about 2-3 minutes.  After about 5 minutes I had caught Max Tamm and pursued the top 3.  By the top of Snodgrass, I had made contact with Marshall, Scott and John Gaston.  On the descent, Scott took a big digger on the way down but recovered quickly.  After transition John took off with Marshall and myself close behind.  I overtook Marshall and eventually John on the ascent back to the top of Gold Link.  After descending to the base area the top 4 were all back together.    I didn't expect any positions to change as we had a big gap on Snodgrass.  By the time we topped out on the  Upper Peel, Max Tamm was back with the group and charging.  I had dropped behind Marshall and John and then Maxx at transition.  On the climb up Headwall, that included a boot pack, Max moved past John and Scott overtook me as I was running out of steam.  The top three were out of transition heading up Teocalli Bowl as Scott and I arrived.  On the ascent, Scott started to fade and I made a pass about halfway.  I charged the descent full throttle and was the first to skate to the finish.  I finished over two minutes up on Scott and less than 3 minutes from the winner.  Max Tamm took the victory, beating the national champion and undefeated John Gaston.
The winning time was 2:54, with some of the full course racers taking 4-5 hours.  It was a great mix of backcountry skinning, steep technical skinning and 2 bootpacks.  It was the best possible course the mountain had to offer given our lack of snow.  I really look forward to tackling the Guide Ridge next year and hopefully we can have descents on the Headwall and Northface.  If we can pull off the whole planned course it will be a world class ski-mountaineering event.
Next stop for Team Crested Butte is the Teva Winter Games with a long backcountry ski-mountaineering event on Saturday February 9th.  Jari and I will be competing in the Ultimate Mountain Challenge.  The event consists of a 10K skate race on Friday, the ski mountaineering event on Saturday and the Vail Uphill on Sunday.  I won the overall last year so I am really excited to defend my title next weekend.  Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more podium finishes from Team Crested Butte.

Jari Kirkland Checks In On Her First Four Races....

So it’s not been 3 weeks since I did my first SkiMo race and I finally have something to talk about.  Which means that even though I was 2nd at SkiMo Nationals in Jackson I didn’t really have much to say.  At that point I had only been on my skis a few times. 

Now that I have 4 races under my belt (the 4th was Saturday at Crested Butte Mountain Resort), I am feeling strong and comfortable again on my skis.  My excuse (keep in mind I don’t really believe in excuses); a late start due to the lack of snow.  I know that I should want to write about feeling blah in a race just as easily as feeling good because its real, but I don’t.  So even though I was 2nd in the race this weekend.... the same as 2nd at Jackson Hole, WY, I felt strong and had a good race.  So here are a few pics from the last few weeks.

And on a parting note, it’s only going to get better from here!!!!

Janelle Smiley - 1st and Jari - 2nd at the CB Skimo race last week

Jari booting up Corbet's Coliour at US Nationals in Jackson Hole, WY

Jari telling US Nationals Race Director, Forrest ...its coooooold!

Jari trying to warm up in -13F at Jackson Hole, WY

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Mezzalama Training

Team Reside got out today for some formal "technical training" all roped up together, on our home training grounds via the Guide Ridge.  The Guide Ridge is an exposed ridge of about 900ft leading up to the peak of Mt. Crested Butte, just off of the traditional ski runs at Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR)

Team Reside consists of Eric "Sully" Sullivan, Bryan "Wick" Wickenhauser and Mike Haney.  We are gearing up for our big focus this year as we travel to Italy for the Trofeo Mezzalama which is a three person, one day race across Northwestern Italy on April 28th, 2013.  It's part of the La Grande Course Series that encompasses the "classic" teams races across Europe.  The Mezzalama is known for pushing the technical abilities of a ski mountaineering team...putting "mountaineering" back in ski mountaineering, you might say.

To hone our team's technical skills we enlisted Jason Simons Jones, owner of Crested Butte Mountain Guides to take us up through the Guide Ridge on Mt. Crested Butte (CBMR).

Approaching the base of the Guide Ridge...Red Lady Bowl off to the right of the photo.

Mike Haney dancing across rock

Quick group huddle mid-Guide Ridge

A little 5.8 on slippery rock by Mike

"Hugging" large flakes of rock, on our way up the Ridge

Looking for foot holds on flakes of rock

Sully with Mt CB and base area of CBMR in background

Stoked Sully in his element

Alpinism defined, as Sully grabs for snow holds

Mike, with Sully "on tow"...and our Guide Jason

Just near the top of the peak on Mt CB

Clearly, this is a jump start to the rest of our training. Its a long season with several races under out belts already, and we clearly anticipate more We will be competing in the remainder of the COSMIC Series races that go through April 20th, along with the GORE-TEX Grand Traverse on March 29th, 2013 (a 40 mile ski race from Crested Butte to Aspen).  When not competing we are training in the local backcountry surrounding gorgeous Crested Butte, CO.  Pray for snow!