March 31, 2007:
Just when you thought your transitions were getting pretty efficient, someone (in this case, Jonathan Shefftz of Amhearst, MA) sends you this link to some of the fastest rando racers in the world at the recent European championships in Morzine, France. Check out these videos to see how it's really done. Laetitia Roux has rocketed out of the espoirs ranks this year to become the dominant woman racer on the continent. Dennis Brunod (sounds French, but he skis for Italy) has been a podium finisher all year as well. Laetitia drops her second skin, and still has time to have a panini and espresso in the time most of us take to get our skins on and be ready to ski!
This clip of racers slinging their skis into diagonal carry position without removing their packs while walking is pretty good, too. The footage is from the 2007 edition of the Dachstein Xtreme Race - if you look carefully you can see a pair of the 2007-2008 Trab Race Aero World Cup skis go by.
The links are all from www.skimountaineering.org, a great site for keeping tabs on the world of Euro randonnée racing. The posts are mostly in English or French, with a smattering of German and Italian to keep you on your toes.
March 25, 2007:
The OR/Life-Link Randonnée Rally at Alpental went off under a light drizzle on Sunday, March 18, and did not disappoint. Alpental is the "granddaddy" of rando races in the Pacific Northwest, having been held five times over the past six years (the 2005 edition was cancelled due to lack of snow). This year the traditional course up International was changed for better visibility and the safety of non-racers by charging straight up looker's left of the Armstrong Express lift, across the creek over a made-to-order snowbridge, and following the most direct line possible up Chair 2.
A steep mandatory boot-up up the left side of the Fan and a boot up with an aluminum ladder and fixed rope through the Rollen cliff bands made the uphill portion particularly spicy this year, prompting myriad humorous comments from the competitors. I didn't do the race this year, citing the same tired excuses (broken leg, lack of fitness) I've been using for the last couple of months, but friends Frank Neumann, Monika Johnson, and Rick Knowles each gave me detailed reports of the race, and Andrew Gorohoff generously sent me some photos of the event to post.
A core group of really fast guys - Peter Svätojánsky, the Traslin brothers from Vancouver, BC, and Scott Coldiron from Spokane - shot off the front immediately. Kevin and Molly Grove fought hard for position, and Monika J., (in her first competitive rando effort), made her fitness level obvious from the start. Frank commented that he probably had twenty years on the next oldest person in the race (well, ten years anyway - we all know backcountry skiers tend to look younger than their years) but had entered with the goals of having fun and not finishing last.
Everyone I spoke with had good things to say about Martin Völken's "creative" course, and the "obstacles" made a big impression on the spectators as well. As with Crystal Mountain's Vertfest events, holding the race in the middle of the ski area during operating hours is a great way to show lift skiers what the sport is all about, and I hope the trend continues.
After reaching the top, the descent went down Upper International and Snakedance to the bottom, where the Rec Division race ended. The Race Division went on for another lap up to Piss Pass, with a higher return traverse than last year (skins were left on) before descending to the finish.
The finish order for the Men's Race Division was the same as the Vertfest Rando Race - Peter Svätojánsky, Andy Traslin (last year's winner at Alpental), and Scott Coldiron. Monika Johnson went on to win the Women's Race Division, followed by Molly Grove and Erin Spiess. Stano Faban of Slovakia won Men's Rec, and Gina Völken took first in Women's Rec. As in years past, the amount and quality of the schwag given away by Outdoor Research, Life-Link, Dynafit and others was phenomenal. Monika was especially tickled with her new set of Race Ti Dynafit bindings! Here's a link to the full results.
Thanks to Andrew Gorohoff of InitialPhotography.com for the above photos - for those interested in purchasing prints of the race, here's a link to his website with the complete collection of pictures from the race, as well as a price schedule.
March 11, 2007:
Randonnée racing is starting to look like a real sport in the Pacific Northwest, with a series of well-received "citizen" races going on this month - the first two, Vertfest at Crystal Mountain on March 3rd and Telefest at Hyak on March 10th, have already come and gone, but perhaps the most challenging of the trio is next Sunday, March 18th at Alpental. All three have received primary sponsorship from Seattle-based Outdoor Research, which has moved on from the gaiter-and-glove days and is rapidly becoming a major player in the quality outerwear market with a line of excellent hardshell, softshell and insulating garments.
Vertfest took advantage of a break in the weather to host two human-powered competitions last Saturday. The first was a "traditional" randonnée race of approximately 4,900 vertical feet, with the ascent path tracing the ridge of Silver Queen and the descents veering slightly into both Silver Basin and Powder Bowl. Jeff Huber was kind enough to supply me with both photos and commentary from the races.
Peter Svätojánsky, a veteran World Cup competitor and Slovakian National Team member who is living in Vancouver, BC for the winter, joined the cast of usual Northwest suspects (Canadian National Team members Andy and Mike Traslin, and Washington stalwart Scott Coldiron) to raise the level of the competition in both the rando race and the Freeride Blitz, stomping the field to win both events. The 2-3-4 order (Andy, Scott, Mike) for the randonnée race changed slightly for the freeride event (Andy, Mike, Scott). Word had it that the organizers, who had designed the "freeride" event for crossover skiers with big skis and boots, were a little surprised when the "light-is-right" group charged the uphill and ripped the downhill off Silver King on their feather-light-and-skinny 160's.
The OR Telefest at Hyak was a low-key affair notable for a persistant drizzle, clouds of hemp-tinged smoke, and the scent of patchouli oil (just kidding). I showed up half an hour late, hoping to catch some shots of the transitions and the finish, and saw the lead racers about halfway up chair # 1. After snapping off a few shots of the pack, I thought about taking the chair up the the top for more photos, but after a bit of indecision I decided to slap my skins on and chase the racers up the hill.
After the first lap Joe from OR came over and took my name, "officially" entering me in the race, so I figured I may as well make a second lap. I ended up passing a few people and finishing around 6th - so much for my plans to not race this year due to broken leg/lack of fitness!
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"Incoming" covers developments that have personal interest to me (ie. gear I might consider acquiring, or events I feel may impact the sport of skiing) - it is by no means meant to be a comprehensive enumeration of gear or events in the ski world at large. Feel free to contact me via the randosaigai.com link below with news or images that may be of interest . . .
© 2007 Gregory C. Louie