Monday, January 7, 2013

The USSMA Ski Mountaineering Classic (Targhee)

Sunday, following up the 8000+ vert race on the other side of the Tetons, the same crew of lycra clad racers met again for the second qualifier for the US Ski Mountaineering Team.  This time the race start was at a more civilized 10:30 AM and the temperature was a balmy 27 degrees.  Everyone had fatigued legs but two more spots were on the line and we all knew that those in the tight lead pack from the day before would be gunning for them.  In particular Tom looked serious since his ticket and $100 were plucked out of his pocket as Luke Kamikaze'd his way past in the final stretch the day before.

Sparing the play by play, here are a couple pictures (again courtesy of Dom Maack) and a few take aways...

  • Tom Goth and Marshall Thompson were out for blood after narrowly missing the day before and went two-three to earn spots on the team.  
  • John Gaston pulled off impressive back to back wins
  • Scott Simmons was fourth, narrowly missing a qualifying spot
  • Jason Dorais and Luke Nelson, 2nd and 3rd respectively at Nationals, probably came back with weary legs and minds and finished 5th and 8th.  Jason went for the win early and was leading after two climbs.
  • Max Taam can descend as fast as anyone I've ever seen.  He moved from 10th to 6th on the long second descent.
  • Wick continued to climb well and ski beautifully for 7th. 
  • Greg Ruckman's skiing has improved drastically.  I thought I'd pass him on the last descent as he dropped in a few moments before me...I never saw him after!
  • The Targhee course is beautiful with views of the Grand and some softer backcountry style descents (and one very hateful long crusty one).
  • Racing hard two days in a row is a test of recovery and mental strength.  The guys with the most to gain had the best performances. 
  • Again the overall times from this race were faster than last year with Gaston setting the new bar at 1:36
  • SLC seemed to account for at least a third of the racers present!
    • Way to represent Layne, Tim, Mike, Ian, Mark, Chad, Tom, Eric, Jackie, Gemma, NFB, Toph, Nick, Teague, Blake (sorry to any I missed)!
  • Andy, the race director puts on a fantastic race with a friendly local feel. Add it to your schedule next year!
On a personal level, I continued to climb better than I have in years past but my achilles is still trying to descend quickly and efficiently.  I neglected to train the DH this year lost a few places as those with better pedigreed ski legs took advantage.  It's something I'll have to remedy by next week if I stand a chance to make the team (more on this later).

Thanks Dominique for the photos!
Another stupid sprint start
Milling about, really glad to be done with over 13000 feet of racing in two days

Women's podium

Men's Podium

Race results can be found at the USSMA website.

So next weekend the attention (of the very small ski mountaineering community) shifts to Glenwood Springs for the Heathen Challenge, which serves as the last of three qualifying races for the US National Team and a chance to compete at the ISMF World Championships in Pelvoux, France.  The top three racers that have not already qualified gain automatic berths for a total of 8 spots over the three races.  Since I finished 9th and 10th respectively at this weekend's races, right now I'm on the outside looking in unless a spot opens as an alternate.

The races have been fantastically close with some jostling for position down the stretch each time.  I've always felt that one of the things that makes this sport so fun and interesting is trying to put all the pieces together to be strong aerobically, technically sound at transitions, and just crazy enough to eek out every bit of speed on the descents from very minimal gear and tired legs.  So I'm gonna chase that perfect race one more time to see if I can get my act together and maybe find a way.

Also, thanks again to Scarpa, Ski Trab, and Outdoor Research for the amazing support!  The gear is so beautifully built around a single function: Moving fast in the mountains.  Racing is a blast but it will soon be really fun to put our fitness, gear, and imaginations to test on some more personal projects in the Wasatch and beyond.


  1. Thanks for the update on Targay. Slightly bummed that I backed out. Hope you crush next weekend. Can't think of anybody I'd rather have reppin' for the country!

  2. Interesting to hear you say "I didn't train for the downhill" and that it was such a factor. I just assumed the downhill would be more of an equalized factor.

  3. I mistakenly thought that as well Derek and got passed by 5-6 folks on the downhill. It's hard time to get back.

  4. Yeah, getting that time back means risking orthopedic trauma I would suppose.

  5. It's a funny sport because obviously by far the aspect that matters the most is aerobic ability. But when one works like crazy to put 20 seconds on someone over a 2000 foot climb, it's hard to lose that over a few minutes on the descent. The fast guys go mach 20 on toothpicks. I've been conservative (skiing scared)...there's more than just bones on the line.