The Flying Moose Classic
A jovial crowd gathered for the annual Flying Moose Classic. On a day that Sara Graves (Stowe Nordic) declared: “if you own skis, it is a crime not to use them today,” the people who traveled to Bethel were not disappointed. Maine’s most beautiful Mountain Village was a scene fit for Currier and Ives, and the skiers in their colorful uniforms became part of the setting. Bethel has been the recipient of significant accumulations from the last two systems, and the scene was laden with snow from the treetops to the tracks.
Skier arrived hurriedly, many experiencing unexpected delays as the cleanup from yesterday’s storm was still in progress. Fortunately, the conditions were easy to wax for, and people applied their choice of greens and blues. I went with the club’s recommendation of Guru Green with a little Start Terva Green on top. Much of NWVE went with this combination that proved to be quite good. I opted to ski most of the course for a warm-up. Much of it was untouched from the groomers, and a fresh layer of snow had fallen since their last pass.
The course was relatively flat for the Flying Moose Classic. Skiers started on Millbrook to Moose; they turned briefly onto Corkscrew before the big climb up Grover’s Grind via Uncorked. The payoff for the effort up Grover’s was a thrilling descent down Grover’s that had many skiers hitting 25mph comfortably in the tracks! At the bottom of Grover’s was a sharp left onto I95. Skiers did an out and back on I95, allowing cheering and getting some support from much of the field. Once done, the 4km stint on I95 skiers returned to the stadium via Millbrook and Treetop.
The course was groomed nicely and had the feel of skiing on clouds. As we entered the wooded trails, the weight of the snow bent the birch trees and pine boughs, creating snow-covered arches over the course. Much of the course was double-tracked, except Grover’s. Skiers were asked to stay in the left track on I95. While flat for the Flying Moose, there was still nearly a 300’ climb from the bottom of Millbrook to the top of Grover’s over 4km. Everything was easily skiable and flowed very well except for the one sharp turn onto I95. A North wind added a chill to the crisp air but was not strong enough to blow snow onto the course, as we had on our last visit here.
Skiers rushed to the start and sorted themselves in an orderly fashion. For some reason, the start at the Flying Moose is a happy occasion. Skiers were friendly and chatty as they waited for the order. After a brief delay to ready the timers, the command to start was given. The mass start narrowed quickly, but it was a clean start. Seeding was accurate, and the race had a bit of a laid-back feel as it was going to be 22km on fresh powder.
Nick Trautz (Hebron), who was early and thoroughly tested skis, worked his way to the front and led initially. Nick had a group of BKL skiers excited about skiing the 10km. What a day to test your endurance! An elite pack quickly formed behind him with Thomas Clayton (NWVE), Charlie Cobb (MNC), Nate Laber (MNC), Dennis Page (Nansen), Eric Darling (NWVE), and Tyler Magnan (NWVE). Kirk Seigel (BOC) was chasing with Caleb Clarke (BOC), not quite able to match the double pole watts of the leaders. Bill Donohue (Gunstock) was between Kirk and the conservative starter David Herr (Unattached), who got his attention at the White Mountain Classic. I skied with Kaitly McElroy (BOC), and we had a common goal of beating Brad Clarke (BOC). Our strategy was the same, do not let Brad catch us. Probably for the same reason of knowing that if he made contact, there would be no shaking him off. Sarah Pribram (NWVE) was right on our tails until making a move when the climbing got a little steeper on Grover’s. Brad, close behind with his teammate Ian Blair (BOC) and Gabe Fein Marlboro Nordic. Jonathan Rodd (NWVE) was powering his way along, not in contact with anyone. Michael Melnikov (Freedom Trail) and Victor Golovkin (Freedom Trail) worked together. Aksel Yeo (Unattached) and Cornelius Welsh (Unattached) were taking pace from Todd Taska (Unattached). Alice Hotopp (Unattached) was also in the mix. The action picked up again with Chris Naimie (Bow Nordic) and Kenneth Kimball (Mt. Washington). Kenneth was looking good in his return to racing after helping to organize a few early-season events. Jim Dowling (Unattached) and Bruce Katz (Unattached) stayed in contact with Ken in an M9 showdown. Sophi Oclair (Fort Kent) skied a bit with William Dougherty (Unattached) before going alone for much of the race. Laurel Smith (Mt. Washington) skied in contact with Pat Horne (Unattached) for the first lap. Laurel has been having a great season with several M7 victories under her belt. She chased Cipperly Good (NWVE) for the first lap but was able to get a gap on the second lap. Luke Spooner (Unattached) had the luck of skiing the whole race alone. It was a tough day to get stuck between packs, but conditions made up for it. Jane Barron (Unattached) and Madeleine Ryan (Unattached) had to make do with dueling for the M7 silver medal with Laurel a bit ahead. Larry Berman (CSU) had company with Steve Grimaldi (Unattached) for much of the first lap. On the second, Larry got the upper hand gaining significant time. Sara Mae Berman was also out for the distance enjoying the excellent conditions, and all that Bethel had to offer this weekend.
The race conditions dictated that it would become one of attrition. There were different areas where certain skiers would have an advantage, but the fresh snow and distance slowly wore away the packs as skiers fatigued. Thomas Clayton (NWVE) held off Charlie Cobb (MNC) and Nate Laber (MNC), who attacked late in the race. Perhaps too early, Thomas was able to recompose himself to sprint to the win! Sarah Pribram (NWVE) had some contact with Kaitlyn McElroy (BOC) in the first lap and into the second, but Sarah’s wax was biting a little better, and it was enough to open up a good lead to the finish. Eric Darling (NWVE) and Dennis Page (Nansen) worked together, with Eric getting an advantage after the second time through I95. David Herr (Unattached) caught Bill Donohue (Gunstock) on the first lap and steadily gained ground to the finish, as he always does. I bonked yielding places to Ian Blair (BOC), who loved the course, and Gabe Fein (Marlboro), who did not have the kick to counter Ian’s finish surge up Treetop. Upon approaching the
finish, I heard some skis closing in fast. Sure it was Brad Clarke (BOC); I ran up to speed as quickly as I could and dove into a frantic double pole. The tips came up beside me as I crossed the line. They were of Owen Redfield (Unattached), who skied a nearly four-minute negative split! Brad bonked too (so Kaitlyn’s strategy worked on both of us), Jonathan Rodd (NWVE), who skied alone the whole race, paced more evenly, and had more pep at the end. Kenneth Kimball (Mt. Washington) would hold off Jim Dowling and Bruce Katz for the M9 win. The whole age group finished in under 90 seconds of each other over the 22km course! Alice Hotopp (Unattached) would hang on to out-sprint Todd Taska (Unattached).
It was a great day for skiing, and the Flying Moose Classic did not disappoint. While it was cold and the wind was picking up, many skiers went out for long cooldowns to extend their day. The crew in Bethel did an amazing job managing all the snow they have received. The Flying Moose continues to be a favorite among many dedicated skiers, and I am sure won over many more with this year's experience!