Hundreds of New England Nordic Ski Racers converged in North Pomfret, Vermont for the Annual Bogburn Classic. The long-standing race has become an incubator for the world's top Nordic talent as well as some of the best race stories. This year’s participants were eager to make history and take advantage of the newly expanded parking. The enthusiasm overwhelmed the overflow lot with at least one car hopelessly spilling off the road into a deep snowdrift. The race times were moved up, and the schedule condensed to avoid the worst of the weather forecast for what some have dubbed the Miracle on Slush!
A miracle it was. The yo-yo winter thus far has provided a thin base in most places. After a fairly cool week with several, light accumulating falls of snow created a winter wonderland had been taking shape, but a heatwave beginning on Friday erased that with high temps and rain showers. The miracle took place during a window of opportunity with a break in the weather. Temperatures remained relatively high, but the precipitation held off. The sun even made a few appearances among the turbulent shifts in the atmosphere.
The vibe was generally what we have come to experience at the Bogburn. People taking a race in the backwoods way too seriously. That is the fun of this race, seeing people applying the techniques they have learned on PistenBully manicured, homologated courses to a private trail in the woods. A skeleton crew of family members organizing an elite level race with the basic tried and true resources that have only evolved as needed over the 30+ years the race has been held. What is important are the basics. A course, accurate timing, and accurate results. Race director Bob Haydock is always improving his timing and recording and had quite the set up this year. Signage appears to be the same as the original race, and the course has been burned into everyone’s memory over the years as love it or hate it, it always entices you to come back and try it again.
The Open Racers arrived to see the remnants of the BKL races. Organized chaos with the aforementioned car up to its windows in snow, where it slid off the road into a drift. The youth racers skiing in all directions with coaches and parents trying to rein them in before they got too cold or spread their equipment to places beyond reach. The masters set about klistering and testing while the BKLer’s cleaned up. Klister, crown, skins, hairys’, and zeros were all working well. It was determined that the klister was getting dirty, so while in initial testing they were fastest, it did not take long for them to slow down, and the zeros became the better option.
The shallow track had been demolished, and what was left were a couple of stripes in the snow that were a bit faster than the snow that surrounded them. It was the kind of thing you might see in a skate race that follows a classic held the day before, where you can find a slight advantage on the ice rails sometimes left behind. The course was the same it has been for at least the last decade, windy, hilly, and exhausting. Temperatures fluctuated on the course with the gullies being below freezing, and the balmy breeze likely hitting 60 degrees. The snow was rapidly deteriorating, though not the worst we have seen, and the real danger on the course was to poles that would occasionally pierce through the frost and become at risk for snapping, an occurrence and fate that happened to more than one racer.
After a minimal delay wrapping up the BKL Races and resetting for the Open Races, skiers got underway. The starting clock announced the bib number with a robotic voice, and a familiar face welcomed the skiers by name and gave a word of encouragement as they departed the stadium to conquer the course. The order was determined by gender and age group with youth and women starting before the men and day of race registrants. Things got underway with some Dartmouth skiers at the top of the order. Not far behind was NWVE’s newest member Melissa Manning. Melissa is a biathlon standout and attended college in Montana. She was recruited by several clubs at the Craftsbury Opener Sprints and settled on NWVE because it is the best team in the Universe. The Bogburn was the first Classic race for her in a while, and like many first-timers, once you have raced the Bogburn, you can do anything! Typical of most racers, it was not long before Melissa was thinking about how to improve her race.
A few minutes later NWVE’s Liz Hollenbach, Sarah Pribram and Jessica Bolduc got underway. Sarah liked that here skis were a little slow as every downhill seems to have a turn at the bottom. Jessica was using crown skis, preferring to have guaranteed kick at this venue in the warm conditions. Liz returned to racing in good form, winning her age group even while taking time to high five, a young fan wearing a UVM hat. Chris Burnham and Patrick Cafferky were the next NWVE starters. Patrick opted to take out some skin skis even after a lengthy consult and credential verification with ToKo rep Rob Bradlee (Wide Meadow). ToKo Yellow was in the mix for working klisters, which Patrick had chosen. Chris quickly went about chasing down those in front of him while never looking back on his way to another strong result. Walker Bean (Dartmouth) was able to pull another Dartmouth skier along and be among the few overtook Chris on course.
James Donegan was the next NWVE racer to leave the stadium. He was embedded with some strong collegiate and club skiers that top-loaded the starting order. James was feeling a little off before the race, but once he got going, things were okay, and he was in better spirits after the race was done. Tyler Magnan and Eric Darling were only separated by one skier CSU’s Eli Gallaudet. Eli never saw much of either as they skied their way into the top 20 for the day. Tyler was close to Joel Bradley (Ford Sayre) on the first lap before Joel slowly pulled away. Eric had great skis and won his age group by over eight minutes!
Next up for NWVE was Damian Bolduc and Jonathan Miller, then Eric Tremble a little further back. Jonathan quickly overtook Damian; then, Eric cruised by both. Damian would soon retake Jonathan but never saw Eric again. Eric pressed onward to win the M3 division. Jonathan showed his grit getting through the Bogburn on a tough day while much-preferring freestyle races. Tom Thurston was able to ski through many of those in front of him, catching Damian, Jonathan, Patrick, and James. Tom elected to us zero skis, and they served him well. Jonathan Rodd, Emanuel Betz, and Rick Kelley were the final NWVE skiers in the start order. While another skier separated each, they hung close together for the first half of the race. Upon completing the first lap of the race, Jonathan R.’s pole snapped. Rather than skiing it out, opting to drop seemed the more appealing thing to do at this point. Emanuel slowly pulled away from Rick, but in the latter stages of the race, Rick was gaining ground.
Some of the last starters were able to make it high into the results. Among them was Neal Graves (Stowe), who raced on zeros but attributed his success to wearing combi boots at this venue. Justin Beckwith’s (Mad River) distinctive skiing style suited the Bogburn trails well as he charged through the final kilometers. One of the most competitive categories was the M7 division, where Rob Bradlee took the honors with Mansfield’s Rick Costanza and Ford Sayre’s Rick Powell within striking distance. There must be something about having shortened “R” names in this group.
While everyone skied equally hard, there was a wide disparity in times for this race. There are many variables in Nordic Skiing, and the 2020 Bogburn was a great study in how experience, equipment, technique, and fitness can all factor into a race. The conditions were on the more punishing end of the spectrum this year, making things extra-interesting. People using the same equipment had different experiences, separated by the Bogburn mentality. The course can certainly “bog you down or burn you up,” depending on your state of mind during the race. While much of the race seems old school, rugged and basic, it requires great finesse to navigate the course and capitalize on its speed opportunities. It is easy to thrash and beat yourself up, but doing so only prolongs how long it takes to reach the finish.
It was amazing that this race was pulled off. It also stayed true to its roots challenging everyone with the courage to enter whether for the
first or 20th time. Congratulations to all who participated and thank you to the organizers for sticking it out and preserving this aspect of Nordic Skiing for all to enjoy!