This past weekend at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area served as a statement for the growth of the sport of ski mountaineering in Summit County, especially among young athletes.
The event was eventually dubbed the Pan American Cup of the United States Ski Mountaineering Association. It also served as a qualifying event for the US National Team. Summit County skimo veterans Jaime Brede and Nikki LaRochelle have once again struck their tickets to compete for the United States at the International Federation of Ski Mountaineering World Championships in March in Switzerland.
In twilight Friday night, after A-Basin stopped running her elevators for the day, super-athlete Brede pushed her way down the 1,600-foot elevation gain course to take third place in senior female vertical run. The podium place for Brede means she unofficially qualifies for the national team spot, as the race ends near the Snow Plume hut and the sun sets to the west of the ski area.
Brede said runners in the hometown of Summit County had a clear advantage at elevation above the tree line over their counterparts visiting places such as Utah, Montana and the Canada.
âI think having spent years doing bike time trials and mountain bike hill climbs prepared me well to sit and suffer for 20 to 30 minutes,â said Brede. ” I was ready to work hard. It was a lovely evening, and the course – we know the course because it’s our local race.
The next morning, Brede’s fellow veteran Nikki LaRochelle finished second in the much longer individual competition. The race required the skiers to climb nearly 5,000 vertical feet with multiple ascents and descents spread across the terrain ahead of A-Basin. It included a steep double black diamond descent on Pallavicini, a roped via ferrata ascent over exposed rocks in the beavers and a grueling final climb through the snow in the beavers to the finish line above the tree line. .
LaRochelle said the course – which was designed by the Summit Skimo Club led by club president Jon Lowe – was very similar to the best European individual racing courses. She added that she was ready for the course thanks to her training six days a week here in the county, including in her backyard near Bald Mountain. LaRochelle also said cross-training in Nordic skiing helped her get ready for the race, although it was her technical preparation that proved crucial on Saturday morning.
âI was very happy and surprised that I managed to do it,â said LaRochelle. âThe depth of the competition is increasing every year. The race really looked like it was a lot bigger. There was definitely a seriousness to it.
LaRochelle also said the hardest part of the race was the mental aspect of the final climb through the Beavers.
âGrowing really high at the tree line is terrible,â said LaRochelle. âIt was a fairly technical race as there were a lot of transitions. You had to manage your equipment, even drink. The level of effort was at a fairly high level. I would credit it, I might not be the fastest, but I credit it to my experience and attention to detail.
If there was one segment of the weekend where the Summit locals impressed, it was the youth races.
Grace Staberg and Jeremiah Vaille won the 15-17 year old cadet vertical and individual racing divisions. Elsa Bates finished second behind Staberg in both the vertical and individual races while Connor Albin finished behind Vaille in second in the vertical and individual races. Sam Burke finished third in the 15-17 year old cadet vertical race.
In the vertical and individual races of the 18-20 junior division, Max Bonenberger and Finn Remias took second and third places respectively.
For Joe Howdyshell, coach of the United States national ski mountaineering team and founder of the Summit Endurance Academy, the performances of the young athletes he coaches were essentially a celebration for the North American skimo scene that Summit County is developing young runners at a high level. .
âI’m really, really proud of the crew,â Howdyshell said. ââ¦. . . . . . . . . . “
Howdyshell also said he was proud that the visiting ISMF delegate remained in awe of the technical abilities of the young riders.
âIn the United States, we generally think of sport as something done by generally fit people, not qualified people,â Howdyshell said. âOver the years, skills have improved dramatically, especially among young people. “