Our team’s skiers and biathletes were involved in all sorts of races this past weekend, in Norway, Slovenia and here in Vermont. On Sunday March 9th, a particularly unusual race was held at Cochran’s Ski Area in Richmond, VT – a Nordic Cross race! I heard about the race a few weeks ago and decided that I simply had to go compete, it sounded like too much fun to miss, even though I didn’t really know what it would entail. Race description: “Uphill, downhill, slalom gates, jumps, and obstacles, all on one pair of skis” – sign me up! I tried to get my GRP teammates to join me for the race, but everyone had something else to do, apparently… Luckily Callie, Jack, and Quincy, some of our Craftsbury BKL/junior skiers, also were at the race, so I had company representing Craftsbury in the green suit – we all finished on the podiums of our age groups too!
Cochran’s is a small family-run alpine mountain, and they did an absolutely fantastic job of setting up this race, with a creative and challenging course, prizes for age group top 3, and a pancake feed after the race. Nordic cross isn’t exactly a standardized race type, in fact this was probably the first one ever in New England. For this event though, heats of 5 people left the start each minute on cross country skis, so the skiers were racing the clock for overall placing (but of course racing the people in their heat also).
The course had all the advertised components to provide everyone with plenty of a challenge. The adult course started at the top of Cochran’s, and included: about 6 definitive steep uphill segments as well as a working gradual uphill, many downhills with a variety of gates from slalom to farther apart GS-type gates, some small jumps as well as a few larger jumps, a drop, banked corners, ungroomed sections through the woods, and carved-out bumps on the groomed area. The path of the course was marked throughout with spray paint guide-lines and arrows, which was crucial for figuring out where to turn next. An added challenge was the iciness of the hill, which hadn’t softened much in the sun by the start – the first morning of daylight savings, combined with cold temperatures overnight, meant that quite a bit of the hill was a sheet of ice underneath a little bit of softer groomed snow. So of course it was scraped down to that ice on all of the corners, leading to even more skidding and lack of traction on our metal-edge-less cross country skis. It’s safe to say that EVERYONE racing snowplowed and skidded the corners, it was just a matter of how much snowplowing could be avoided to pick up a little extra time.
The winning men’s time was 9:32 (Eli Enman), and I was the first women with a time of 10:53, 12th overall. (Results: http://www.cochranskiarea.com/images/pdf/rank2.pdf) My heat included 3 men and 2 women so it was a great challenge to stay ahead of a few of the guys. Kids 12 and under did a shorter version of the course, starting lower on the hill, and they were completing their course in as little as 6 minutes. The race was really well attended for a first-time event – several dozen kids raced and 118 adults, including some skiers who had been at JNs in Stowe this past week, various high school and college students, masters and citizen’s racers, ski coaches, and at least one “professional ski racer” (that would be me!).
It was a serious adrenaline rush, kind of scary, and also awesome and exactly what I was looking for! There’s nothing better than this type of event to reinvigorate for the last bit of the season, to remember how cool skiing is and how much fun it is to be able to go off jumps and take sketchy turns on ice, and to burn the lungs with a few uphill sprints. Yes, in my future races I may be wishing for jumps, but I truly love racing uphill too, so I know I’m in the right sport, Nordic cross was just a great diversion for the day! Pictures don’t really do the event justice in terms of the intensity of the course, but here are a few from the day. Thanks to Meredith Young for many of these pictures. And thanks to Cochran’s for hosting an amazing event!!