The first official cross-country ski races of the season in the Lower 48 were held Friday in West Yellowstone, Mont., and for the first time in a long time, they weren’t U.S. SuperTour races.
But they were International Ski Federation (FIS) sanctioned and once again a big part of the West Yellowstone Ski Festival, which has been known to attract 3,500 skiers and has been an early season tradition for more than 30 years.
Paddy Caldwell, of the U.S. Ski Team’s D-team, Dartmouth College and the Stratton Mountain School (SMS) T2 Team, won the men’s 10-kilometer freestyle on Friday at the Rendezvous Ski Trails. He bested nearly 90 in the men’s race, putting down the fastest time in 20:32.4 minutes, which was 26.7 seconds ahead of runner-up Rogan Brown, of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF). Mads Strøm, a Norwegian-born University of Colorado-Boulder (CU) senior and two-time NCAA champion, placed third, 31.1 seconds behind Caldwell.
Just 0.2 seconds off the podium, Sun Valley’s Jack Hegman placed fourth (+31.3), and Ben Lustgarten, of the Craftsbury Green Racing Project (CGRP), was close behind in fifth (+32.4), as was Silas Talbot, of the Bridger Ski Foundation (BSF) Elite Team, in fifth (+37.4).
Rounding out the top 10, Karsten Hokanson (Montana State University) placed seventh (+53.6), Patrick Johnson (Far West) was eighth (+56.7), and Norway’s Petter Reistad (CU) and Welly Ramsey (Farmington Ski Club) tied for ninth (+57.6). Oscar Ivars (University of Utah) took the next spot in 11th (+1:01.5).
In the women’s 5 k freestyle, Katharine Ogden, another U.S. Ski Team (USST) D-team member who trains with SMS, took the win. She beat out CU’s Petra Hyncicova, originally from the Czech Republic, by 11.8 seconds with a winning time of 11:45. One of Ogden’s training partners, Erika Flowers (SMST2) placed third (+13.3).
Craftsbury’s Liz Guiney took fourth (+19.4), Jennie Bender (BSF) was fifth (+22.4), Mary Rose (SVSEF) sixth (+27.0), Anne Hart (SMST2) seventh (+32.8), Christina Rolandsen (CU) eighth (+34.7), Kaitlynn Miller (CGRP) ninth (+36.5), and Hannah Halvorsen (Sugar Bowl Elite Team/USST D-team) 10th (+36.8) in a tighter women’s field, which included 76 finishers.
FIS racing continues at the Rendezvous Trails on Saturday, with 5/10 k classic races scheduled.
In related news, the first SuperTour races of the season — which were supposed to take place next weekend, Dec. 3-4 — were canceled. At the top of the Bridger Ski Foundation’s SuperTour event page, it now reads: “Bozeman SuperTour Cancelled: Due to lack of snowfall the races are not able to be run.” The SuperTour opener doubled as the first races of the Canadian NorAm season as well.
Just like in the U.S., Cross Country Canada (CCC) intended to use Bozeman as part of its selection races for 2017 World Championships and the Continental Cup leader (COC) World Cup spots. Now instead of considering an athlete’s best three results out of seven race days, CCC will consider three out of five.
“Bozeman was part of our NorAm COC series selection process; however now that Bozeman is cancelled it’s not in the picture,” CCC High Performance Director Thomas Holland wrote in an email to FasterSkier on Friday night.
UPDATE: On Friday afternoon, the Yellowstone Ski Festival announced on Facebook that it would be hosting the SuperTour in Bozeman’s place.
“Are you ready for some more West Yellowstone fun? ‘Cuz we’re hosting the SuperTour next weekend December 3 & 4,” the post read. “Saturday Freestyle Sprints, Sunday 15k/10k Classic; 5k U16 Classic. Registration site is in progress but will be on ysfraces.athlete360.com. And can you volunteer? Send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org to give us your info. Thanks!”
“The altitude at West Yellowstone is too high to use it as a selection race for the Canadian team – will not count for the FIS COC series,” Holland wrote.
We’ll post more information as it becomes available.