Wednesday, April 2, 2014

LaSal Mountains Traverse

7pm Friday night Andy Dorais sent a text to meet at the Junction of UT Highway 191 and 46 @ 3am Saturday morning.  The plan was to ski across the LaSal range.  Who could say no to skiing ten, 12,000' peaks in one day (well, my wife maybe...), I'm in! 
The La Sal Mountains are located in  Utah along the Utah/Colorado border. The range rises above a Moab and north of the town of La Sal. This range is part of the Manti-La Sal National Forest and the southern Rocky Mountains. The maximum elevation is at Mount Peale, reaching 12,721 feet. The range contains three clusters of peaks separated by passes. The peaks span a distance of about 10 miles.
7 spandex clad skiers (Teague Holmes, Brad LaRochelle, Lars, Andy/Jason Dorais, Tom Goth and myself) set out to conquer the range in one day.  The boys set a blistering pace right from the gun(wait, I didn't know it was race....oh wait, its always a race).  Taking photos wasn't an option. I'd get dropped every time I pulled out the camera and then pay the price to catch back up. 


Not quite ready for bikes yet.
"Arguably one of the top mountain bike trails on the planet. Linking up several Moab favourites, this trail spans almost 30 miles and has a cumulative descent of over 8,000 feet."

Mission Accomplished ~ An Amazing Day
Thanks Scarpa/SkiTrab for getting us there!
The significant peaks of the La Sal Mountains;

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

US Skimo National Championship ~ Crested Butte, CO

Three Races ~ Three Days
Vertical - 1,500'+ Climbing
Individual - 5,500' Climbing, 10 miles
Teams -4,500' (apx) Climbing
A schedule like this doesn't allow a lot of time for recovery.  I wanted to podium in the Vertical without completely burying myself.  This plan quickly went out the door.  I was headed for a third place finish behind Marshall Thomson and Brian Smith but Colin Cares was closing in fast.  I had to kill it to finish third.  I'm still recovering from the effort four days later.
 Everyone got the bulletin to wear yellow (Scarpa Aliens).
(photo: Matson Tew)
 Starting line ~ Individual Race
Thomson and Tom Goth took turns in the lead.  They were followed by Dorais, Simmons and Smith.  This pattern continued until we reached the Guides Ridge.  Marshall was the first on the rope followed by Dorais, Goth, Simmons and Smith.  (Once your on the rope there's no passing.)  I could see the three leaders bunched up ahead of me.  When I topped out, Goth was putting on his skis and Dorais and Marshall were gone.  Unfortunately, Dorais skied down the wrong aspect and had to side-step back up.  Tom screamed down the 3,000' descent, passing Thomson, for the win. 
1.  Tom Goth
2.  Marshall Thomson
3.  Jason Dorais
4.  Scott Simmons
5.  Brian Smith
Resting the legs after the Vertical.
More Finish Line Chit-Chat

Teams Race
I was hoping for a mellow start to the Team's Race after yesterday's Individual.  No chance of that...  Goth and Dorais (Utah) were determined to set a blistering pace right from the gun.  My teammate, Thomson, was right there with them but I was hanging back with Brian Smith/Jon Brown.  At the top of the 2nd bootpack all three teams were close together.  On the third climb, Goth/Dorais were out of sight.  I thought wow, "they're flying", however a broken boot (not a Scarpa!) had taken them out of the race .  I had to dig deep to pass Brown and catch Smith.  Thomson and I won the battle to reach the Guides Ridge rope first.  Barring a disaster we had the W.  My legs were shot on the long descent but I managed to make it down and ski across the line with Marshall to take the Teams Race Championship title.
1.  Marshall Thomson/Scott Simmons
2.  Brian Smith/Jon Brown
3.  Pete Swenson/Teague Holmes
 A great (exhausting) weekend of racing to crown the season.  Time to go to work and recover!
Thanks to race director Bryan Wickenhauser and all the volunteers for all your efforts. 
Nick Gould (Durango) thrilled to be crossing the line ahead of Janelle Smiley and Lyndsay Meyer.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

PowderKeg ~ North American Championship ~ 2014

 5 climbs, 6,500′ climbing, 10 miles
Brighton Ski Resort, Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah
A great weekend of racing in Utah.  I participated in both the Sprint and the Individual races.  I didn't race the teams event as I'm saving some for this coming weekends US Nationals Ski Mountaineering Race in Crested Butte.
Starting Line
(Photo Rick Carter)
 Leaders in the Individual Race
(Photo ISMF)
20 degrees and blue skies on race day.  The race started out with local Salt Laker, Tom Goth leading.  He was followed closely by Marshall Thomson (Crested Butte), Jason Dorais (SLC) and myself (Durango).  At the top of the first climb we had a small gap over Reiner (CAN), John Gaston (Aspen) and Max Taam (Aspen).  I had a sloppy transition and the top 3 left me behind.  A conservative downhill run allowed Gaston and Taam to catch me.  I caught up with the lead group again and the 5 of us topped out together on the second (and third) climb.  By the top of the 4th climb, five of us were still together.  I was charging it in fourth place as I skied over one of the drops we'd been warned about at the pre-race meeting.  I managed to catch the most air I've had in years.  As I was picking myself up from my yardsale I heard a Course Marshall exclaim "That was HUGE, maybe I should stand up there and warn people about that".  Maybe....
Goth passed me as I was recovering and there was no passing back on the downhill. 
1.  John Gaston
2.  Jason Dorais
3.  Marshall Thomson
4.  Tom Goth
5.  Scott Simmons
Women's Top 5
1.  Janelle Smiley
2.  Gemma Ribot
3.  Stevie Kremer
4.  Sari Anderson
5.  Kate Zander
 Starting line of the Sprint Race.
 Finish Line ~ Sprint
My time didn't qualify for the next round as my skis fell off my pack at the start of the bootpack. 

 Boot Pack ~ Team's Race
 Scarpa on the Podium
 (photo ISMF)
 (Photo ISMF)

While Dad "works" we play.
 Checking out the course Friday afternoon.
Pine Needle Mountaineering athletes Miles Venzara, Nick Gould and Scott Simmons enjoying beer, brauts and sunshine post-race.

Quinn getting some.
Thanks to Race Director Chad Brackelsberg and crew for a great weekend of racing.  Thanks to Scarpa, SkiTrab and Tailwind for the support.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Power of Four ~ Aspen, CO

26 miles with 12,000' vertical gain
The week prior to the Power of Four I watched the weather forecast gradually worsen as the biggest, wettest storm of the year arrived just in time for the race....  Miles Venzara, Nick Gould and myself set off to Snowmass at 4:30am.  We were soon in a full on downpour.  It started to sink in that we were in for a brutal race.  Miles commented that it was going to be a "Tough Guy" competition and probably Nick's last SkiMo race.  The rain turned to heavy, wet snow as we arrived at Snowmass.  Start time was pushed back to 6:30am to allow for control work in Highlands Bowl. 
6:30am sharp and we were off.  The bottom of Highlands Bowl was the steepest skin of the day.  We went to the front and began breaking trail through 3" of fresh that soon turned into 10".  At the start of the bootpack Taam/Gaston took the lead as Marshall and I stopped to get dry gloves out of my pack.  I knew things were about to get challenging.  The wind was blowing 70+ mph.  It was hard to stay on your feet and visibility was less then 5 feet.  We dropped into the bowl behind Taam/Gaston (the hometown boys).  It was a struggle to stay together as we were in white-out conditions.  I stopped and waited/worried.  I began yelling for Marshall and thinking the bowl had slid. We made contact and he said his binding had broken.  It really was a Tough-Guy Competition as Marshall proceeded to finish the race and put us into 2nd place without a heel-piece.   
Team-mate Marshall Thomson and myself at the finish line.
 (photo credits: Jen Gersbach-Venzara)
 Finish Line Chit-Chat

Scarpa/SkiTrab dominates the podium.  Thanks for helping us get there!
 1st Place-Max Taam/Pete Gaston- 5:20
2nd Place-Marshall Thomson/Scott Simmons-5:33
3rd Place Brian Smith/Brian Wickenhauser-5:38
Team Durango
UltraRunners Drew Gunn and Brendan Trimboli
I think I might puke ~ Nick Gould ~ Finish Line Action

 Jen Gersbach-Venzara congratulates husband (and dad-to-be), Miles Venzara.

Miles Venzara/Nick Gould

Monday, February 10, 2014

Sneffells Challenge BackCountry Race

24.6 miles, 5,050' vertical gain, 5,579' vertical descent, no lifts in sight.  Miles of gorgeous scenery and backcountry skiing from Point A to Point B on the Dallas Trail System make this race one of my top picks. 
Settling in for the night on the Ridgeway Elementary gym floor after a delicious dinner provided with your entry fee.  Great breakfast to follow in the a.m.
5:30am bus ride to the start line.
37 racers and their gear "stuff the bus". 
At 6am we reach our destination; the side of the highway.... The wind was raging and it was still pitch black out.  Unfortunately I hadn't brought a headlamp.  I was counting on Brian Smith having one as I figured we'd be skiing at the same pace.  Nope, he'd left his at home as well.  We ended up skiing over our fair share of dirt and rocks which may have been avoidable with some light.  The sparks coming off our skis were giving us a little light to go by.   Brian and I took turns breaking trail and drafting off each other for about 20 miles.  We passed three of the San Juan Huts along the way.  We would occasionally glimpse Pat O'Neil and Jesse Ricketts not too far behind.  As we began the 4.5 mile descent down to the Uncompahgre River Valley, Brian crashed and I skied alone toward the finish.  As I got close to the finish I could hear Brian gaining on me.  He cut a switchback and was suddenly in front of me.  War had been declared and I straight-lined the last three switchbacks.  I crossed the line 2 seconds ahead of Brian and the race officials decided to call it a tie as we'd both "kind of" cut the course.
Biking legend, Frank Mapel on the start line.
Brian Smith leads the way as the sun comes up.
1st and 1st
Fellow Scarpa Teammates and Competitors; Brian Smith & Scott Simmons
 Brendan Trimboli sports a post-race smile.  Happy to have shaved 5 hours of his 2012 time!

Cowboy Fire Tender
Congrats to Jen Shelton of Durango, the woman's winner.
Ophir, CO Rasta Dude
Thanks to race organizer Joe Ryan and the San Juan Hut Systems for the support.  A great race all around!  Add this one to your list.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Copper Mt SIA Race

Along the commute from Durango.....

Hanging @ the Scarpa tent and checking out next year's gear!

Switching out skins while the competition looks on.
 This COSMIC race was part of the SIA On-Snow Demo.  It included a large field of industry folks racing for their "brands".  A 1,500', steep climb followed by a harrowing descent through tight trees and soft snow got things going.  Marshall Thomson lead right from the start.  He was followed by Colin Cares, Pete Swenson and Jon Brown.  I was following behind in the pain cave.  I actually struggled with wanting to drop out (something I've only done one time in my entire racing career).  I persevered and was able to finish in 5th place.  I seem to have a monopoly on 5th as I've had three fifth place finishes in a row.  Hoping for a better finish in Taos this coming weekend!

 The gap widens...

 Crossing the Finish Line
Top 5
 1.  Marshall Thomson
2.  Pete Swenson
3.  Colin Cares
4.  Jon Brown
5.  Scott Simmons

Hanging with Scarpa's Grassroots Marketing Director, Shunnie Chen after
 he completes the "Industry Race".