This winters Green Mountain Skimo Race Series is all wrapped up for 2017, and what a season it was. Over our 8 races we had 286 racers participate, completing 743 laps, which equates to the ballpark of 1,340 miles and over 590,000 vertical feet skinned and skied! Those numbers certainly make this series sound pretty extreme.
I included these numbers for a couple of reasons; 1. To give Kudos to everyone who raced with us this winter and, 2. To those readers who have not participated in any races, to give a somewhat deceptive segway into this post. We are highlighting two participants who embody the true nature of the Green Mountain Citizen race series, even though they, “…tend to be more competitive in the Raffle.”
Mike Langlais and his 10 year old son were regular racers this winter, and in addition to having some family fun on the course, they walked away with their fair share of prizes… and Chili Mac. If you are one of those folks who have thought about coming out, but were maybe a little intimidated by the word ‘RACE’, take it from these guys, there is fun to be had for everyone. I asked them a few questions about their experiences at our races this year. Here is what they had to say.
- Where did you hear about the races, and how much did you know about the event/ sport of skimo racing before hand?
I have lived close to the Catamount Trail for a number of years, first in Elmore and now Stowe, and use the trail throughout the year to walk/ski the dogs, get exercise, and, of course, find turns up in the woods when the snow is in. I’ve had a lot of fun participating in previous Catamount Trail events such as the Backcountry Challenge, Saturday Night Lights, and the Race to the Top of Vermont, so when the skimo races first started a couple seasons back I figured I would give it a try. It’s been great to see the event grow, with more people turning out and the new courses at Bolton, Stowe, and Sugarbush. As for prior knowledge of skimo racing, I suppose I was aware of the sport, but I am approaching this more on the recreational level. One of the things I like about the Catamount skimo events is that the format works for the folks who really want to race, but are still fun for the rest of us who just ski a lap or two and then go find a beer and a slice. We tend to be more competitive in the raffle.
- What was your impression of the first couple of races you attended? When did your son decide he wanted to participate?
Like a lot of the Catamount events, you really do get an interesting cross-section of the local ski community – hardcore racers; people getting in a lap after work, others testing out their new gear or trying uphill/downhill skiing in a front-country setting, and so on. The event can be as competitive or as chill as you want it to be. I definitely felt it would be a good environment to try and get the kid out for an evening adventure and it was great to see him willing to give it a try.
- Had you done much touring with your son before? What type of equipment was he using and how hard was it to find equipment for him?
While we haven’t done any ski touring together to date, we have spent a fair amount of time nordic skiing, both with the school programs and out with the family. My son is also reasonably proficient on alpine skis. When thinking about the Catamount skimo event, the uphill is more or less on par with skiing up to the Trapps cabin and the downhill is a standard green or blue alpine run. I was confident that the skimo event would be within his skill level and most of his buddies would be fine with it as well.
As for gear, that’s kind of the trick. Nordic gear wouldn’t work and I don’t think many people are going to assemble a full AT or tele kit for a small kid. However, last winter the Catamount Trail posted a Facebook note about the Contour “Start-up” touring adapter which is basically a device that snaps right into alpine bindings and allows free-heel movement for the climb. At the top you simply pop out the adapter and put it in your pack, and the kid can step into the alpine binding in the usual way. At the start of this season I ordered one of these devices and between that and a pair of kick skins we had the climb covered. For the downhill we simply strapped a high-power MTB bike light to his helmet which worked fine. (Full disclosure on the Contour device: While we have used it with no problems a number of times, at one point the heel-bail popped out so definitely pair it with a ski leash.)
- What did it mean for you and your son to have this experience together?
From the perspective of dad, I enjoyed getting a couple hours of outdoor time with him away from the usual team sports dynamic. I also like knocking him out of his comfort zone from time to time, and this was a safe way to create a fun adventure with a do-able challenge. Moreover, the slow pace of the climb and relaxed transition zone allowed us to chat about skiing, including backcountry travel, safety, how to use skins and other gear, etc. If he’s stoked about skiing and these sorts of adventures generally, it becomes easier to get him enthused for the next thing.
I asked my son what he found appealing about the skimo races and his top response was, “skiing at night, because you don’t get to ski at a resort in the dark too often.” Also making the list was the fact that it is a bit of a unique experience in comparison with other teams and activities, the free lift-serviced lap after the skimo loop at Bolton, and winning gear in the raffle.
- Do you have any message to those who thought about coming to a race, but were maybe a bit intimidated?
I’d say just give it a shot. There is definitely no reason to feel intimidated. The CTA folks do a excellent job of including everyone regardless of skill or experience. If you are up for the race, great, there is some solid competition. For the rest of us, after 20 seconds the racers are away up the trail and we get a night out under the stars and wide open trails. As for the kids, kind of like any outdoor adventure, do whatever is needed to keep it fun. If you have any questions, I’m sure the CTA would be happy to help.
There you have it folks. Thanks to Mike and Eamon for their participation and support of these events, and everything CTA. I hope their story convinces some of you folks to come out next winter and give the Skimo race thing a try. Like Mike said, we are always happy to help however we can to get people out on skis, so don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns. See you next winter.