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photo by Lydia Stern

Irwin skimo race moved to Crested Butte Mountain Resort

“CBMR came in and saved the day”

by Than Acuff

Due to the continued spate of dry weather, organizers of the Irwin Guides/Griggs Orthopedics Skimo Race presented by Millet on Saturday, December 12 won’t be held on Irwin terrain.

“Buzzkill,” says race director Bryan Wickenhauser.

It’s the second time in the five-year existence of the race they’ve had to cancel due to thin conditions and while they pulled it off once before with a thin snowpack, this year is just too thin to host the race.

photo by Lydia Stern
photo by Lydia Stern

“We were close but there just wasn’t enough snow,” says snow safety director for Irwin Billy Rankin. “We didn’t just want to pull it off. We feel there was just too much exposure to early season hazards with the potential for compromised visibility with the storm coming in.”

While weather forecast models show a storm on the way, the call had to be made.

“It’s just too little, too late,” says Wickenhauser.

And while initially it appeared that there was no plan B available, race organizers have been given the green light to bring the race to Crested Butte Mountain Resort on Sunday, December 13 with a 7:30 a.m. start.

“CBMR came in and saved the day,” says Wickenhauser. “We thought that it’d still be fun to bring the race in and CBMR wants to provide a race venue for the athletes.”

While snow is thin at Crested Butte Mountain Resort as well, they have opened their doors to the skimo world to act as the back up plan for the Irwin race. The combination of Mother Nature and the efforts of the snowmaking crew make it possible to pull off a skimo race.

Typically, the Irwin race incorporates 5,000 vertical feet of climbing and descending including the classic boot pack section. Available terrain on CBMR can’t really offer the same, but they will try to put together something for the athletes to get a skimo race in.

“We’re just going to do the best course with what we have,” says Wickenhauser. “Try to make it interesting.”

The rough draft plan as of press time is to start at the base area, head to the top of Paradise Bowl, ski down to the bottom of the Teocalli Lift and then throw in some more climbing and descending in the Gold Link/Painter Boy Lift areas before returning to the finish line at the base area.

“We’ll shoot for 2,500 to 2,750 feet of total vert,” says Wickenhauser. “Try to put the climbs in the trees with switchbacks so it’s not just a drag race up the groomers. Get three ups and three downs in as a minimum. Make it so there’s some skill set involved.”

In addition, forecasters are calling for a storm to roll into the valley this weekend, which could add a little spice to the race venue.

Given the change in venue, Wickenhauser still expects to see those that signed up for the Irwin race come to CBMR to compete.

“I think they’ll be lured by the storm coming and the lure of the surrounding backcountry,” says Wickenhauser. “Ski pow on Saturday and race on Sunday.”

Following this weekend, the skimo race season really takes off. Grand Traverse race organizers and Griggs Orthopedics are hosting their Grand Traverse Skimo Academy Friday through Sunday, December 18-20 at CBMR. In addition, the GO Skimo Race Series at CBMR opens with the first race on Saturday, January 9 and the GORE-TEX US Skimo Nationals will be at CBMR February 12-14.

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