The Trapp’s Race to the Cabin was held Sunday, March 1, 2020. The annual event had been postponed from the Bogburn weekend, a decision that proved prudent. It is always a risk moving a race from January to March, but in this case, it could not have possibly been better. Instead of a deluge of rain and an ice-storm, skiers were treated to yet another Bluebird Race Day. Prior to the race Dale Rogers (NWVE/Trapps) remarked, "when's the last time you did the Race to the Cabin on blue hard-wax?!" It was true; it was one of those cannot miss ski days, and there is no better place than Trapp Family Lodge for those.
Skiers arrived at the venue with that dreamy mid-winter Austrian warmth that only Trapps can provide. The lodge and chalets were covered in the thick blanket of snow that looked as if you could ski right over the buildings. The fluffy powder was abundant from the late week snow accumulations, and while there was a gentle breeze, no one minded the temps in the low teens. We went about setting up, testing, and warming up.
We tested some Guru Green, which worked but missed if there was any ice in the track. This was good to know as it could be used as a shell over some softer waxes. Blues were all working well, and Ski*Go's HF Violet for fresh snow was also in the mix. Eric Darling (NWVE) and Eric Tremble (NWVE) made a pact that whoever beat the other had the better wax. Eric D. was banking on ToKo Blue, and Eric T. was confident in the Swix product. Perry Bland (NWVE) was dead set on using Swix Extra Blue, in case that was a question in any one’s mind.
The Race to the Cabin is a point-to-point race where you start in the Von Trapp Meadow and end at the Cabin. There is a set course, but as long as you start and finish, your result will be recorded. This year’s race followed the traditional route out Sugar Road, over Picnic Knoll, up Yerrick’s Yodel (formerly Owls Howl) to the Cabin Trail. The surface was machine set packed powder with double tracks most of the way. As is always the case, the snow at the top was different from that at the bottom due to the change in elevation. The finer powder at the top was not as significant a factor as in previous years, but it still played a role for some. No one complained of having toothier wax on the climb, but speed was an advantage on the more horizontal sections of the course, and everything was climbing reasonably well.
With five minutes to go, skiers lined up. A countdown was begun, and Race Director, Tyler Magnan (NWVE) gave the pre-race instructions. The timer was quite concerned with Tyler's lack of urgency and interrupting several times to declare the time remaining. It is imperative to start on time as the watches are synchronized for this race, but Tyler was confident he could get in position for the ringing of the giant cowbell gave the signal for skiers to commence. Like magic, Tyler finished his spiel, and the field parted, revealing a spot on the starting line for him. There were the other usual starting line shenanigans. It was thought that Sara Graves (Stowe Nordic), who finished a minute behind two Olympians at the American Birkie, should line up in front of Chris Bean (Stowe Nordic). There was also some friendly sizing up between Hanna Holm (MNC) and Leigh Mallory (NWVE). It is good to see the bond that has developed between these two after a rough start that you had to see to believe!
What had become the annual NWVE team tryout plus Chris Ziegler (VTXC) has grown this year with many of NENSA’s Clubs in attendance as the Cabin Race has been added to the Popular Racing Series. The saga between MNC and NWVE spilled over another week, with both teams calling in their remote members to race. David Johnston (MNC) came up from Brattleboro, and Cipperly Good (NWVE) drove in from Belfast, ME. CSU sent the Burnham’s to check out what is going on. Dennis Page (Nansen) also thought he would see what the long tradition is all about, signing up for the first time.
In the instructions, the old adage that "you cannot win the race in the first hundred meters" was given. Honestly, competitors are so amped up that this wisdom is pointless, I have never met anyone who thinks the advice applies to them. We got on course with furious double poling in a clean start. Ski speed was immediately apparent as were style preferences. Some elected to double pole up the mild inclines at the beginning of the race as others opted to stride. Eli Enman (NWVE), Trey Jones (GMVS), and Chris Burnham (NWVE) were at the front early, driving the pace. Skiers fell in line behind them without any real breaks for the first kilometer of the race. NWVE having much experience with this race had a strong presence in the front of the field with Eric Tremble, Jake Hollenbach, Tyler Magnan, and Eric Darling hanging on to the leaders. Dennis Page (Nansen), Chris Bean (Stowe Nordic), and Nate Laber (MNC) were also part of this first group. I was on the tail end enjoying some fast skis along with Michael Millar (MNC), Stephen Wright (NWVE), David Johnston (MNC), and Carl Kellogg (GMVS). Athletes began to protract out due to ski speed as we approached Picnic Knoll.
Leigh Mallory (NWVE) declared the "honeymoon is over" as volunteer Kyle Darling (NWVE) directed us over the knoll signifying the start of the climb. Reality indeed starts to sink in here, but more so than in other races, the Cabin Race has multiple “realities” that participants must conquer. Traditionally the leaders of this race set the pace as though it is a sprint to lure unsuspecting participants into the trap of the arduous climb. Those with speedy skis at the start may have noticed a jolt as their shoulders started to burn up. “It’s just to the cabin, how bad can it be?” “Gauge it like it’s a 7km race.” "The course is pretty simple; there's only one hill." These are all euphemisms that lead to the poor judgment of attacking this race from the start. It has to be done this way, though. The Cabin Race is built on the premise of the great Four-Time Olympian Larry Damon bragging, and therefore it is a statement of pride, endurance, guts, skill, some more guts, and prestige. You go until you can go no more, and then you keep going. It is not good to be in survival mode at Picnic Knoll, but it happens more often than you think.
This year with it being a blue kick day, people climbed well initially. Even those with faster skis did not burn up too early. Those with toothier wax started to make up lost ground, and those with discipline toughed it out in the tracks. Just as the mindset that "hey this is not going to be so bad" set in, the first reality blind-sided you with a hard right. The hill pitched up, heart rates spiked, and within seconds you get buried in the red zone hopelessly anaerobic. Where this happens can be different, but it happens to everyone, and then the course keeps hitting you until after the finish line. Michael Millar went early, trying to keep pace with those he easily has beaten all season. Skiers lingered ahead, in sight, looking like an easy target, but by the time you reached where they were, you realize you are in no better condition. Time and distance are deceiving on the climb, and unless it is precipitous, people do not come back even though they look like they are skiing the hill Kyle Style.
Sara Graves (Stowe Nordic) came flying by light on her feet. She had slow skis initially but managed her energy well, getting over the first steep pitches before opening it up. David Johnston went with pure grit. Sara Falconer (MNS) and Kathy Maddock (Dublin) also bided their time well. They continuously moved up throughout the race. Dennis Page was feeling the hurt on the steep pitches and looked as though he was on the brink of cracking. Rose Clayton (MNC), and Charlotte Brown (GMVS) tried to hang with their coaches and mentors to find that experience plays a huge role in this race. Grace and technique, not so much. They were lucky to be in front of a heated battle developing between Robert Burnham (CSU) and JoAnn Hanowski (MNC). Attacks and counter-attacks can have dramatic consequences in this race and must be plotted carefully. Familiarity with the course and past mistakes help immensely, yet you are still drawn to take risks.
Steve Crafts (MNC) was back in action this week. Rather than think about wax, he opted for skin skis. He had positive traction the whole way. Lydia Hodgeman (MNC), who has mad fitness for a U16, was hot on his heels and closing near the finish. Jim Fredericks (MNC) used his experience to set a consistent effort pulling Rosalie Wilson (Ford Sayre) and Sarah Pribram (NWVE) to Julia Oliver (MNC). Jim went on to ski through a few more racers before the finish line. Farmer Lindemuth (MNC), a hard-charging U14, was one of them. Sarah was excited to be able to race on a perfect day after a long bout with a chest cold. While Leigh made the statement early in the race that things were about to change, he had the advantage, skiing by those who thought they had put him away early in the race. Jessica Bolduc (NWVE) wished she trusted her skis more experiencing another of the many realities you encounter in the race. How comfortable can you get with your kick as there are dramatic changes in pitch, and you slip deeper into fatigue? John Lazenby (Onion River) was locked in a race with Hanna Holm (MNC), not even noticing that Carrie Nourjian (Stowe Nordic) was collateral damage in their sprint to the finish line. John edged Hanna under Carrie's protest of "whatever happened to ladies first!" Hanna may have been a little shocked that Leigh was able to pull away from her late in the race when she had nothing to counter with.
Joe Frost (Unattached) was a last-minute entrant. Dropping off his daughter to race, he decided he might as well sign up and get a good ski in too. He edged Scott Magnan (NWVE), who was the catalyst for his choosing to participate. Patrick Cafferky (NWVE) suited up for another difficult classic race on behalf of the club. He skied with Scott in his sights, but yielded in the final meters of the course. Ann Burnham (CSU) and James Drew (Craftsbury) commiserated early in the race. Distracted they got off course, advantage Perry Bland (NWVE). Quickly realizing their mistake, they decided they better focus on the race. Ann pressed onward, leaving James on his own. Perry was not looking to take advantage of the error and did not even notice it. He plodded along with his distinctive gate, perfect for this course. He leans right into the hill. Ann Bushey and Ellie Bouffard (MNC) raced together, challenging themselves not so much in a race against the rest of the field, but in a test of how far they can push their personal limits. While everyone does this to some extent, I find it hard to believe that Ellie is out to get anyone else in the race. She finds it an excellent opportunity to test herself, and the rest of us happen to be there.
Maya Frost (BFA) skied with BFA alum Cipperly Good (NWVE). As is often the case, Cipperly kindly led the way by example, and with the finish in sight, her protégé left, sprinting to the line, but failing to recognize the kindness that ushered her to that point. Katie Goodwin (MNC) may also have a beef with her partner Michael Millar as he convinced her that the Cabin Race was the perfect event for her foray into the Popular Racing Series. If there is any animosity, know that Michael’s lack of awareness affected him too, causing much suffering. King Milne (EABC/CVU) rounded out the field with the Stracks (CVU), encouraging him to the finish line. Before the race, King was having second thoughts about signing up; in the end, he was pleased with finishing yet again.
At the front of the field, Eli Enman and Trey Jones opened a gap on Chris Burnham. In a common miscalculation, Trey underestimated Eli's sprinting ability. As they made the final turn, Eli found that gear that many do not think he has, leaving Trey in his dust and taking the win by four seconds. With nothing else being equal except first names, Eric Tremble proved that his Swix wax was faster than Eric Darlings ToKo wax for the 2020 Race to the Cabin. In a close race for the M2 division, Jake Hollenbach prevailed. Tyler Magnan made a decisive effort to take second over Mansfield's Nate Laber with a two-point delta in the Club Series in mind. Sara Graves chased down much of the field, and even though Chris Bean seemed assured he would get to the cabin first at the start, Sara bested him by the slimmest of margins, one second. However, that is all it takes, and there shall be a re-ordering of placement in the next race, as by nature, the Race to the Cabin has so much more than results riding on it. Dennis Page found a second wind once the race turned onto the Cabin Trail and picked up a couple of spots before the finish. I believe my fast skis were a benefit overall as kick was not compromised. Sure that Michael and Stephen were on my tail, I surged up the final part of the hill. After finishing, I turned to see that I had barely edged Sara Falconer and Kathy Maddock. JoAnn Hanowski ended up edging Robert Burnham by a second in their competitive race.
After the race, skiers quickly got their warm-ups and traded stories. New levels of respect were expressed. Reputations gleamed while others were tarnished. Once recovered, people set out to get some fantastic skiing in, now that the hard part was over. Ann Burnham and Jessica Bolduc had the best cool-down ever. Perry showed Cipperly and I some of his better ski moves as he swooshed down Chris’s Run. People thanked the timers, Ed Hamilton, Andre’ Bolduc, and James Donegan (all NWVE) for their part in making the event a success. At the awards ceremony, people thanked Tyler for keeping the storied tradition going and giving it renewed traction in the Popular Racing Series! As always, the crew at Trapp Family Lodge provided participants with a five star skiing experience. As participants departed, they went their separate ways, some to refuel, and some to return to Eastern Massachusetts to report that it is still very much winter, and that MNC and NWVE are still going full throttle.