Citizen’s racing kicked it up a notch last weekend with the Silver Fox Trot at Craftsbury Outdoor Center. Ford Sayre elected to host the annual event early in the season on the guaranteed snow loop. The change was due to Craftsbury’s events coordinator Ollie Burruss and his wife, Anna Shultz, welcoming a new baby girl, Ava, to their family. Ollie conceded organizing duties to the experienced crew at Ford Sayre with the anticipated arrival resulting in, from my perspective, a win: win for the skiing community.
Leading up to the race, the guaranteed snow was no guarantee. Warm weather and a two-week cycle of liquid precipitation had closed the ski loop. The dreary conditions did not deter people from registering. Then came the cancellation of day two of the Kendall Memorial with encouraging words that the loop would be patched and ready for a skate race on Saturday. Skiing reopened on Friday in the afternoon. Brendan Barden and I were able to preview the loop, and it was ready in a big way. The staff at the Outdoor Center took advantage of the cold temperatures on Thursday to make snow and trucked it to where it needed to go on Friday morning. By the afternoon, Keith Woodward was a one-person show putting the final touches on teaching hill in his trusty PB100.
It was close, but Quarry Road had set the bar a week earlier with more challenging conditions and less time. Nonetheless, a two-kilometer loop was more than ready to handle thousands of laps from hundreds of skiers. A huge thank you goes to the Outdoor Center for their colossal push to ensure the Silver Fox Trot would go on without a snag!
Race morning arrived, and droves of people flooded the Outdoor Center. People looking to get some volume in went straight to the loop finding glazed corduroy - an extremely fast condition. The loop was all artificial snow. Some sections were ground ice; others had been patched with freshly blown snow. Overall the course was fast, level, and ready. Wax was not necessary. No matter what you had, it was going to be fast!
The loop was 2km long. Racers started in the upper stadium and headed out Main Street to Six Corners. Then they turned onto Lemon's Haunt, dropping to the base of Dino Hill, the steepest climb of the day. Once over Dino, skiers continued on Lemon's to Coaches Corner. The snow was so fast that many racers could tuck through the corner. The rest of Lemon's was the most technical section of the course, with snow getting scraped and bermed up on the S-turn near the snow pit. Skiers then ascended the longest climb of the day up Wilbur's past the cabins. One more tuck could get you almost through the Lower Field, and then there was the final climb up Teaching Hill to the lap/finish area in the upper stadium. It was an easy course that flowed nicely and was fun to ski at speed.
The format was changed from a mass start to an interval start at 15 seconds. The start order was randomized, and NWVE was well-represented throughout. Seeing different approaches to managing the volume of skiers on the loop is interesting. I liked Quarry Road's better as it was conducive to all-out speed, and the seeding was so good that you were continuously racing matched skiers. The Fox Trot approach also worked great; however, the action was different, with a vast range of abilities on the course simultaneously. There were a few minor bottlenecks, but the racing was clean overall. This was much improved over last year's chaotic mixed mass start at the Fox Trot at Rikert.
Racing got underway, with skiers rocketing themselves on course out of the gate. John Thompson was the first club member to get on the course, launching himself into the race. He was settling into his final lap when the next NWVE racer, Sarah Pribram, got on the course. She was sporting some old skis for the first race of the season. Brendan Barden followed closely behind. He was on a good pair of race skis with the bumblebee Salomon boots. Did I mention it was demo day? The Skirack rep Jake Hollenbach advised Brendan to modernize his boots.
Shortly after, Stephen Wright was out on the course. Stephen felt as all the skiers did, like Superman for the first lap, then progressively more tired on the remaining three laps. Eric Tremble had to scratch due to close contact with COVID-19. Kasie Enman liked the conditions and looking forward to more skiing this year. After several more racers, I started in disbelief that I was moving so effortlessly. After a few more skiers, Tyler Magnan was back in action, hoping to improve on his race at Quarry Road. He was a little reserved as he had done a long-distance roller ski the day prior. Next up for the club was Chris Burnham. As I lapped through, Chris came by me like I was standing still.
Eli Enman started a few spots back from Chris. Eli was happy that the snowmaking system at Sleepy Hollow was working as planned and was optimistic that there would be another skiing option in Vermont soon. There was another significant gap between NWVE athletes, but Jessica Bolduc led a rush of NWVE blue at the end of the start order. Eric Darling was taking a relaxed approach to start his first race of the season. Tom Thurston took to the starting line for the first time after a prolonged bout with COVID reduced his normal training volume over the summer. John Witmer suited up for the second week after his first ski of the season was in the pouring rain during the Biathlon race the week prior. Scott Magnan was the final starter due to an error with his registration that landed him on the BKL start list. It must have been due to his youthful looks.
The skiing was excellent, with nonstop action. Skiers were fairly spread out, and while there were many registrants, early starters were finishing before we got a third of the way through the start list. Nearly everyone was amazed by the condition of the course and how fast the snow was. Most had a similar experience finishing the first lap before noticing that they needed to breathe harder. Each lap got progressively more challenging, but the memory of the free speed in the first lap was stuck in people's minds.
Due to the random seeding, skiers of vastly different abilities were on course at the same time. Skiers were courteous for the most part; however, there were a few snags with a couple of crashes and some bottlenecks around the snow pit. Other than that, skiers had plenty of room to move.
John Thompson was able to report on the race to most of the club upon finishing. He said that it was an all-out effort with no recovery. Sarah was not having her best ski but motivated Kasie as they closed in on the finish. Brendan was going to wait to assess how he felt about his race. He had a surprise fall in the lower field for no apparent reason. I was happy with my effort, having nearly the same time as at Quarry Road, even though the Craftsbury race was about a kilometer longer. The same went for Tyler.
Chris Burnham opted to use some demo skis for the race. The Rossignol S2s Jake handed him were faster off the shelf than his race-prepped skis! Chris pushed the skis' potential, and they delivered. I have noticed many people enjoying their time on these skis. Stephen Wright was skiing well. He was a little concerned about a registration bib number mix-up, but after a third attempt, things got corrected, which he was happy about. He liked the conditions and felt good about his position in the field as he raced.
Eli Enman had a good race, holding off Nick Trautz to take the M4 win. Eric Darling may have thought he would have a relaxed race, but things change when standing at the gate. He took off, knowing Tom Thurston would be in close pursuit. Tom was still feeling like he was coming back. He was able to hold off an attack by Jessie Donavan, but Julia Thurston got him by a slim margin. John Witmer could not believe the difference in the conditions, much preferring those at the Silver Fox Trot this year.
Jessica Bolduc was happy with her ski, cheering on Eric and Tom as they caught her. She had good company, good skis, and appreciated how quickly the turn to the finish came. Her only regret was that making the team brownies had slipped her mind in preparation for the day. Scott Magnan put in a good effort as the BFA bus unloaded and his new crop of skiers cheered him on in his closing laps.
HAPPY was the day's word for the second week in a row. Even if you were not too pleased with your results, everyone was impressed with how nice a day it was to ski! NENSA had an awards ceremony where NWVE skiers took several podiums! Jarlath O'Neil-Dunne won the imaginary Audi but was not present at the awards, so Steve Crafts donated it to 1-800-KARS FOR KIDS on behalf of the Greater Burlington Intramural Gentleman's blah, blah, blah.
On a more serious note, a huge thanks goes to the staff at Craftsbury for pulling together the course in a time crunch and doing so in enough advance that we could preview the afternoon before. The volunteers at Ford Sayre also did a fantastic job putting everything together and running the event without a hitch. It is not easy with your venue over 90 minutes from the home base. Finally, NENSA deserves accolades for enhancing the event with the finer details that make us feel like official racers, complete with awards. Most of all, everybody pitched in for an amazing day of skiing!!!