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White Mountain Classic 2023

January 21, 2023

After a tumultuous start to the season, the White Mountain Classic was held in bluebird conditions. The leadup to the race was uncertain, but Jackson gradually opened more and more terrain while PistenBully groomed more trails. Race Director extraordinaire Ellen Chandler worked through many iterations of holding the race to entice the reluctant registrants to trust that Jackson would pull off a phenomenal event regardless of what they had for snow. Small accumulations ensured the race and the previous day's storm secured the race would be held in its traditional mass start format on a course similar to those in years past.

The star of the day was the conditions. Droves of skiers of all kinds were drawn to the White Mountains, which have not had quite as dire a season as Vermont, but were blanketed with at least eight inches of powder and launched into mid-winter conditions on a perfect day to ski. As we traveled east, the usual spots had a nice new coating of snow. The Walden Heights had great coverage in Vermont. Bretton Woods was still lean but looking much improved from the conditions that canceled Monday's Geschmossel. Once through Crawford Notch, the snowbanks tripled in size, and an eagerness to get out and test the wax that was prepared baited skiers anxious to get on the much-anticipated snow.

Skiers arrived at a bustling Jackson. Registration was easy, and the wax testing was well underway. Blues, Violets, Weiss, and Guru Red, were working well, and people went about making their final decisions. NWVE's wax predictions checked off all the boxes, with Jessica reporting that she loved the Super Weiss, Sarah loving the Guru Red, Thomas liking the Terva Speed Shell, and I was quite happy with the Rode B17. Others were not exactly super psyched, but they seemed to get around the course just fine. A few wax prediction loyalists from other clubs did regret not having the speed shell on in places.

Skiers rushed to the starting line as a couple ran back to the parking lot, "not having a waxing crisis." It looked like it was to me, but they reassured me they were not. Cipperly was looking for a little more bite and went from a blue to a violet final layer. Some others went back for the "oh $#!%" layer as well.

At the start, there was one vacant spot left on the line. Aimee Smith encouraged me to take it. (This has not happened before in a race with this many people registered. I was close at one Mount Washington Cup, but Peter Harris (Craftsbury) was granted the spot, making his case to the spontaneous jury that he had rested both of his feet for the race.) So, to the line, I went.

Ken Kimball (MT. Washington) gave the instructions and a series of warnings, with 30 seconds being the final. He asked the other timers if they wanted to wait it out, which they did. With a whistle, the White Mountain Classic was underway, and all the turmoil in the leadup was forgotten. A slightly larger field jockeyed for position as the lanes quickly reduced to two. There was no lap in the field, and the participants almost made a beeline to Yodel.

On Yodel, heart rates spiked. Skiers thrashed up the initial pitches, and one could be heard yelling at themselves to ski! With all the commotion, things sorted themselves out by the final pitch and downhill as they made their way to the road crossing. Once across the road, skiers did multiple laps of the Competition trails and Eagle Mountain fields. They finished at the Eagle Mountain House. There was no shortage of climbing, but recoveries could be found after most hard efforts.

Chris Burnham (NWVE) worked to the front and battled with fellow Colby College alum Mark Young. Chris was happy with his race, taking second overall, but stated that his legs needed "a bit of strengthening" in preparation for next weekend's Craftsbury Marathon. Today's long climbs should do the trick! Eric Darling (NWVE) did not want to cook himself too much Yodel and skied a little more conservatively until the high point of the course on the Henry trail. Then with the initial 400 feet of climbing out of the way, Eric began moving through the field. Eric eventually caught Thomas Clayton (NWVE) going into the third lap. Thomas secretly hoped he would not be caught as he wanted to relax a little, but it was not meant to be. Eric and Thomas were in good company with Kirk Siegel (BOC) and Colin Pogue (Unattached).

Eric Tremble (NWVE) described a race similar to many participants. He did not feel too great for most of it but settled in on the third lap. He overtook a few racers that faded in the last lap, almost catching Dennis Page (Nansen). Once over Yodel, I did not have any company except briefly when David Herr (Unattached) flew by me in the usual spot at 5km. David moved up a couple more places during the race but settled a bit once by me. Bill Donahue (Gunstock) looked to be faltering but was still over a minute up on me on the final stretch.

Stephen Wright also had little company for most of the race. At the end of lap one, he briefly skied with Sarah Pribram (NWVE) and Bob Burnham (CSU). Soon after, he looked back and found that he had gained a lot of ground in the double pole and climbing section. Stephen had no issues with being boxed in during the race but found his car completely blocked upon trying to start his journey home. He seemed to accept that there would be zero chance of finding anyone to move their vehicle on such a great day. Bob went on to catch Jimmy Burnham (CSU) and worked with him for a while, pulling away from Sarah. Sarah tried to hang in with Annevitte Rand (SD-XC), but Annevitte was drawn out when she saw Jimmy falling back. Sarah held her own and held off Will Morris (Freeport), who took second in the high school division. Sarah also reconciled with her former Wax Tech, Eric Darling (who at least looks at the NWVE wax predictions), after having to fire her new Wax Tech, Eli Enman (NWVE), after the Bogburn debacle and not even knowing what he put on the ski.

Mark Isslehardt (Craftsbury) and Ed Momm (Gunstock) connected on the course. They worked together, holding off a hard charge from Lincoln Clark (Waynflete School). Liz Hollenbach (NWVE) skied her first White Mountain Classic in several years. She had a strong start pulling ahead of most skiers around her in the lineup, and cruised up Yodel. She skied well throughout the race and sprinted to the finish pulling away from a pack of skiers, including Lindsey Masterson (Dublin), to take the M3 win! Jessica Bolduc (NWVE) also had a good race skiing much of the time with Gunstock's Jeff Palleiko. Jessica pondered where Trina Hosmer (Stowe Nordic) was as she skied in the vicinity of Mary Heller-Osgood (Putney). Jessica put her back into it, which she is paying for now. It did not affect her during the race, and she was pleased with her finish, dropping Hans Larsson (Northeast Multisport).

Todd Taska (Unattached) was in an M7 battle with Bill McKibben (Frost Mountain) and Michael Melnikov (Freedom Trail Nordic). Todd was asked an odd question at the post-race lunch and awards ceremony, "do you ski with Chris Bean? (ORS)" To which he quickly replied, "no, there's a bit of an ability disparity between us." Cyclists Christopher Naimie (Bow Nordic - Sunapee) and John Witmer (NWVE - GMBC) had a close race, with sprint/crit specialist Christopher edging TT/cyclocross specialist John by a second. Perhaps the two should face off in a cyclocross biathlon where both have significant range experience! John raced on some Swix 50, providing a positive kick without icing up.

While Cipperly Good (NWVE) was not completely sold on her wax, she was outstriding Gina Campoli (Craftsbury), who went thin to win. John Brodhead (Craftsbury) was also not overjoyed with how his skis were working. Cipperly was able to pull away from Gina on the climbs and put quite a bit of distance on her during the final lap. Jud Hartmann (NWVE) needed more kick for much of the striding on the course. He also had a harsh fall at the bottom of the Wave but impressively somersaulted back onto his feet. He finished between David Hosmer (Stowe Nordic) and John Brodhead (Craftsbury). David was skiing particularly strong, having made the same wax conclusion as NWVE. While pleased with his result, he still thinks the area superior to the wax pocket could still use a little more work.

Larry and Sara Mae Berman (CSU) were also on course to lend their support to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Their efforts put MA on the podium, though it was not enough to overtake the strong showing of Vermont. The Vermont Women took many age group wins, securing the One Day State Championship for the Green Mountain State for the second year. However, it is fair to say that their performance is an extension of the trail Sara Mae blazed for them on the inaugural US Women’s Ski Team.

The skiing in Jackson today was a much-needed boost to the 2023 season! Race participation continues to rebound after the COVID-19 disruption, and skiers even enjoyed a post-race feast. Many extended their day by taking some easy laps around the flat terrain near the ski center. Today certainly set the stage for New England’s premier popular race weekend, the Craftsbury Marathon Ski Festival. It was great to see so many people out today, and I hope to see even more next week!



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