Bonjour, je m’appelle Pitbull
A handful of Gunnison Valley ski mountaineering (skimo) racers made the trip north for the Wyoming Rando Roundup January 10-11 and when the snow settled, two more local skimo racers qualified for the U.S. Ski Mountaineering team and are headed to the skimo world championships February 5-12 in Verbier, Switzerland.
It’s been a frantic season on the skimo race circuit; athletes vying for positions on the U.S. team headed overseas and the Wyoming Rando Roundup brought out another field packed with big lungs.
The weekend opened with a skimo race at Grand Targhee on Saturday morning. The course included close to 5,000 vertical feet of climbing spread out over three climbs and racers were faced with extremely challenging conditions.
“The downhills at Targhee might have been some of the toughest conditions we’ve seen as skimo racers,” says Team Griggs Orthopedics athlete Stevie Kremer. “I don’t know how anyone didn’t break a ski.”
Kremer knows her strength lies in her speed on the uphill and the course at Targhee opens with a steep climb right from the start line.
“Targhee is infamous for having a steep climb, kind of like Upper Keystone,” explains Kremer. “Whenever I have a race, whether it’s running or skiing, I know if I have a strength it’s climbing but the other girls are super fast too.”
Kremer looked to build a gap on the initial uphill but found a couple women right on her heels throughout the race. It wasn’t until the transition into the final climb that Kremer managed to build a small gap.
“That was the first time I left the transition and started to climb before any women had pulled into it,” says Kremer.
Kremer held onto her lead to win in a time of one hour, 43 minutes, just a minute-and-a-half ahead of Lindsay Plant out of Carbondale, and Team gO teammate Jari Kirkland finished Targhee in fifth place.
Team gO athlete Marshall Thomson had the top finish among the local men, placing fifth at Targhee with teammate Jon Brown in sixth and Billy Laird finishing in 10th place.
The racers then headed over Teton Pass for a sprint race that evening at Snow King ski area in Jackson, Wyoming. The sprint race format is pretty much redlining through everything a longer skimo race has to offer- climbing, switchbacks, a boot pack, more skinning and a giant slalom downhill in a span of six to 10 minutes. Typically, there are a series of heats with racers battling to advance into the finals.
“They incorporate everything,” says Kremer.
Kremer finished the first heat in second place with Kirkland in third place and after some discussion, decided to call it good knowing full well they had the longest race of the weekend the following day at Jackson Hole.
The Gunnison Valley men saw a mixed bag of results in their sprint race and the weekend came to a head in Jackson Hole on Sunday as the athletes headed out at 8 a.m. on a course with close to 8,000 vertical feet of climbing over five climbs, including the classic boot pack up Corbett’s Couloir.
Conditions on the Jackson Hole course were much better than at Targhee the day before and the skiers lined up under foggy conditions and warm temperatures, a nice change from conditions last year when skiers endured sub-zero temperatures and howling wind.
“Conditions were good. They’ve got an 80-inch base. It was 20 degrees, which was 40 degrees warmer than last year,” says Brown.
“We were in the tropics compared to last year,” adds Kremer. “Much more bearable.”
The longer course with a lot of climbing played to Kremer’s strengths and while she was anxious about her competition, she was looking forward to the race.
“I knew it was longer so I was happy about that,” explains Kremer. “A three-hour race suits me better than an hour-long race.”
Kremer was out front once again with two or three other girls on her heels but, again, built a gap as the race progressed. While she relied on her climbing, she kept it pegged on the downhill sections as well.
“I knew one of the girls was a really strong downhiller so I knew on the downhills I really had to push,” says Kremer.
Her race went relatively flawlessly, charging up the boot pack and gaining steam as she hit the two-hour mark. Once she had finished the final and toughest climb, she had a comfortable lead and finished with her second win of the weekend, crushing the course in a time of two hours, 55 minutes and taking the overall Rando Roundup title. Kirkland finished her weekend placing fourth in Jackson and fourth overall.
Thomson placed fourth on Sunday to finish fifth overall for the three races. Brown placed seventh in the Jackson Hole race to close out the weekend in sixth place overall and Laird placed 14th for a 13th place overall finish.
Following the weekend and the races in Crested Butte in early December, Kremer, Kirkland, Brown, Thomson and Laird all earned a spot on the U.S. ski mountaineering team bound for the ski mountaineering world championships.