Three US Ski Team Qualifiers in Eight Days
by Brian Wickenhauser
In order to make this year’s US Ski Mountaineering Team, three qualifying races were laid out over eight days to find the best team to take over to France for the World Championships (Feb 9th-16th, 2013).
Ready…Go! Three minutes later we saw a MOOSE run across the ski trail in front of us! No lie
US Nationals in Jackson took the top three men - John Gaston, Jason Dorias, and Luke Nelson. It was a cold start with about -15F, but with the inversion it was 12F, 2,500’ above. After 7,900’ of vertical folks were destroyed but it was time to rest, recover, and reload for day two over at Grand Targhee. The men’s field was the most stacked I had ever seen in my eight years of skimo racing!
Michael Hagen, Ram, JB, Wick previewing the Jackson course
No pics from Grand Targhee, but the racing was hot and heavy with two men being chosen at the finish line based upon results eliminating those who already qualified at Jackson Hole the previous day. Those top two men who qualified were Tom Goth and Marshall Thompson…two newer guys to the scene but clearly very skilled and fast. Marshall is a Crested Butte guy who has been cranking it up on the mountain running scene and this is carrying over well to skimo.
Now it was an epic eleven hour drive home to rest, recover, get back into life, and somehow try and get psyched up for one last battle at Sunlight, where they would take three more men’s spots….with a deep men’s field, surely some fast guys would unfortunately miss out.
The CB crew of me and Marshall leaving at 3am on race day….it wasn’t perfect, but we got to Sunlight with an hour to spare. With it being -16F at the start there wasn’t too much of a need for a warm up because there was no way you could “warm up”! I nearly dropped out in the first 15 minutes because I couldn’t get my hands to warm up. Luckily, with some persistence, they thawed out as we got into some sun! The battle for the last three slots came down to Smithy (from Crested Butte!), Max Taam, Andy Dorias, myself, and two others. Smithy missed the start by 30 seconds (kind of standard for this kid…thanks Brian!) but he passed everyone and made it to the top of the first climb in about 3rd place.
The first descent was tricky off-piste crusty, tree lined skiing with terrible terrain traps that put a premium on DH skiing in funky conditions. I saw some ugly crashes and divot holes from other racers and played it conservative to the transition. Smithy was already losing skins on the course but didn’t look back. The second descent saw all the competitors battling on a long tricky mixed descent with one final climb.
Taam had pulled away on the previous descent and Smithy blew a skin or two, so on the final climb it was me battling for one of the last two spots….with Dorias “hugging a tree” on that previous descent a little too long to remain in contention. I threw in a hard dig with 10 seconds to the top and put a tiny gap on the others and held it on the finish, passing Jason Dorias on the way down.
I was elated as I got the very last spot on the 2013 team….probably the fastest team we have ever sent over to Euro-land!!!!!
Mike Preston, Jason Dorias, Wick, Marshall Thompson, Scott Simmons, Smithy….and UpSlope!