Grand Targhee Ski Mountaineering Classic

January 13th, 2009

Me cresting the ridge at Grand Targhee

And so the 2009 rando racing season kicks off! The first USSMA ski mountaineering race out West is the Grand Targhee Ski Mountaineering Classic, my old stomping grounds by Driggs ID, so I had to go. :) Last year this was my first ski mountaineering race ever. The format of the two day event is a 2-person teams race on Saturday, and a solo “freeride” race on Sunday. Last year I didn’t line up a partner for the teams event (frankly I didn’t know if I was up to 5000′ of vert) and only did the freeride, but I made a little effort this year and did both.

Last year, my timid foray into the race scene involved just doing the freeride event at Targhee in my regular alpine skis (it was just a bootpack and not really a “serious” race). Since I was only person in full-on alpine gear (everyone else was tele or AT) I “won” my division and scored a free weekend pass to the Targhee Fest music festival! I also won the “recreational” division of the Bridger Bowl Skin to Win (some nice BD poles this time). These two experiences got me excited to try and race a little more seriously this year. This means I have been training a bit all year, and I upgraded my gear to a nice light Dynafit setup over the summer. It’s not an all out ridiculous featherweight racing setup, but it’s a nice change from my heavy old gear. They actually introduced a “Heavy Metal” category this year for racers without light gear, but I’m mentally committed to try and compete against the fast guys now. My gear isn’t the lightest, but I’ll stomp them on the downhills. :)

Grand Targhee Ski Mountaineering Classic Teams Race map

So I drove down to Targhee to start my “serious” race season. I had gotten in email contact with a guy in Jackson who wanted to race, and was excited for the teams event. Because of the avalanche danger this season the Forest Service required some changes to the course, but it was still going to be a good 4300′ of vertical and a fun challenge. Two skins and one bootpack. On Saturday morning my teammate picked me up and we headed for Targhee. Then, in Alta, he realized he forgot his boots!!! GAA! You just can’t race without boots. It’s not like forgetting your gloves for something. But we continued up in hopes that I could find another partner, although it was looking grim at this point.

The bootpack up Toilet Bowl

But I did find another partner! Several, sort of. First there was a girl… but then she did have a partner after all. Then there was a guy who was late and still driving up. Then there was another guy who worked up at the Ghee and just wanted to race for fun. When it came down to about 5mins before the start he and I teamed up. He was on a pair of massive Maiden AKs, but I knew I wouldn’t win anyway so I was just happy to be able to enter.

Winners podium for the Grand Targhee Ski Mountaineering Classic Teams RaceIt was worse than I thought though. In addition to his huge skis, my partner was just plain out of shape I think, and he said he didn’t eat enough breakfast or something too. So… he was slow. On the final uphill he was dragging so much ass I pretty much had to just stand around and wait for him. I would race ahead and catch up to the people ahead of us, then wait. And wait. I even got a phone call and talked for a while during the race. *sigh* If you take a look at the results, here, you can see we were dead last. Everyone beat us. All the girls, and everyone in the Heavy Metal category too. So, that’s how that went. It was a strange race in addition to my bad partner luck because Brandon French’s ludicrously fast team ended up in second, instead of first, because they made a wrong turn on the course. Andy Williams had to make a hard call about the “true” winner, and it colored the mood just a little. But so it goes… anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. :) I thought Targhee did a great job with the race, and it was great way to open the season.

The next day was the Freeride and I was stoked to be able to stretch my legs solo - to see how Look back at the steep climb up Sweetwaterfast I could really go. I noticed something was up though as soon as I got to the base area… all the silly little race skis from yesterday were gone. No skinny guys in race suits gawking around. I was the first person to sign up… 20mins before the sign up was supposed to close. It was a foggy, snowy powder day (as it often is) but the race wasn’t canceled or anything… no one stayed around for the second day though. By race time there was one other name on the list. So I raced one other guy. A little heads-up rando racing! And, since all the really fast guys left after the first day, I beat him. Assuming you ignore all the weirdness about categories and everything, I have now gotten “first” in three races and last in one. Quite a record! It was killer though, since Targhee wasn’t giving away as many prizes with only two racers, they totally jacked up the first prize and gave me a pair of Silvretta Pure AT bindings! Sick! As my Dad quipped over on his blog, Woody Allen Was Right - “80% of success is just showing up”. :)

Grand Targhee USSMA Freeride - two man race

The second day was a lot of fun, actually, since it was a bit of a powder day. I got the most out of my discounted $41 lift ticket! Mary’s was deep and really fun. I made some good turns with the whole family. Another successful (if weird) rando racing weekend. Grand Targhee is working hard to try to put events like this together, and it’s been a lot of fun both years. Not just because I’ve come away with sweet prizes both years. :) Two weeks from now is the Whitefish Whiteout, which I plan to attend. I wonder what craziness awaits me there??

The 'rents hiking Marys at Grand TargheeMom gettin some Targhee powder!Dad gettin some Targhee powder!

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One Response to “Grand Targhee Ski Mountaineering Classic”

  1. [...] though so I turned in early. It was a nice short drive to the mountain in the dark A.M. Unlike the Targhee race two weeks ago this one involved no “teams” or partner shenanigans (it’s just a [...]

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