The 12th annual Moose Chase in Jackson Hole, WY took place on February 15th. The event has grown and character of the race has changed over the years. The first Moose Chases were held in a homey atmosphere at the Trail Creek club house and race course near Wilson, WY. Today’s event attracts people from throughout the western region and features a 25K point to point course from the Jackson Hole Nordic Center at Teton Village to the plush facilities of the Teton Pines XC-Ski Center and Golf Course near Jackson. Recalling twenty-some years of xc-ski racing in Jackson, the early days are remembered with primitive trail grooming, a more than normal laid-back attitude and beer at the finish. Jackson is still a laid-back town, they still have beer at the finish, but this year’s organizers need a big hand for creating a superb race course with the minimal amount of snow and warm temperatures.
We normally associate Jackson Hole by going to the mountains, but 99.9% of the Moose Chase race course is flat as a pancake. However, the course has a number of distinct features and technicalities, there is no place for recovery, and the race is a true test of strength and endurance. A group of four skiers broke away about one third into the race, Chad Andersen of Bozeman, MT and Team Rossignol, Scott Loomis of Park City, UT and the Subaru Factory Team, Jackson’s own Eric Wilbrecht, and yours truly; Jon Engen of Ketchum, ID and Team Rossignol. These are all seasoned competitors and good gliders, and the tempo was kept high as the chase groups contained many strong names. A quick study of the front group told why we were there, the accomplished Loomis is having a fine season on the US marathon circuit, Andersen is a strong distance skier with yet uncovered potential, and the forever young Wilbrecht is still in the mix with gliding abilities only matched by a handful few in this country. As for me, say old savvy and wisdom, and leave it with that. The group stayed together till the last few K’s where the hard training, younger fast twitch proved itself. The more experienced Loomis snuck by Andersen for the top spot, then followed Engen and Wilbrecht.
The women’s race was captured by a strong Grete-Lise Haakensen of Bozeman. Grete-Lise was a young star with the Norwegian National Team before skiing for the University or Wyoming at Laramie about 20 years ago. She eventually moved back to northern Norway, and last fall showed up out of the blue with an address in Bozeman, MT. She maintains still being “in her thirties,” and is once again showing her flying colors in US Skiing. Runner-up in the women’s division was Nicki Humphries of McCall, ID. It should be noted that Nicki competes in the 45+ category. Who says experience doesn’t count. We were unclear of the further order in the overall women’s division.
The Jackson Hole race organizers did many things well at this year’s Moose Chase. The course was very well prepared. Although, a few more hills would make it more interesting, it is a course that everybody in a citizen marathon event can ski. The logistics and auxiliary support, such as transportation and post race feed, were very satisfactory. A few items could be improved, such as course marking. We were lucky to have local Erich Wilbrecht in the front pack to pick the right turns in a couple of spots. The final approach to the finish line has been greatly improved the last couple of years, but the finish still lacks adequate sprint lanes. As more and more strong skiers enter the event, this has become a necessity for fair competition. It appeared to be some confusion about the final order of the women’s race, after some racers accidentally exchanged bibs or something of that nature. Such things happen. The Moose Chase pays cash prizes to the top finishers. That’s an excellent way of attracting good competitors and a trend more race organizers should follow.
For more information on the Moose Chase and full results , check out www.moosechase.com.