St. Paul, Minnesota
Per K. Johnsen
South Colby, Washington
Kongsberger Ski Club
An unusual winter with little snow added a great deal of uncertainty and worry for the organizers of the 2005 National Masters Cross Country ski races. The original venue of Battle Creek looked for a while to have good conditions for the races, but a couple of warm days ruined those plans. But with optimism, good cheer, and skill the committee moved the races to St. Cloud, an hour northwest of the Twin Cities, and to Trollhaugen Alpine area right across the Wisconsin border. And they provided great racing and challenging courses.
The first event, the 20/30 k classic race, took place at the Greystone Ski Trails in the orchards and wooded hills near the Minnesota State Reformatory in St. Cloud. The snow cover was thin, but the track was in excellent shape. The course consisted of a fairly flat 5k loop through the orchard area, and a 5k loop in hilly wooden terrain. The hills were short and steep. Racers completed 1 Â½, 2, or 3 laps, depending on the distance of their event. Temperatures held below freezing we had dry corn snow. Most participants used hard wax for kick, although some tried klister, with less success. In all 144 skiers completed the race, which included 30 women. The organizing committee had provided for excellent facilities, including a warm place to get inside, quick results, and awards ceremony. Given the required change of location, the opening race was a roaring success.
Long uphill finish at Graystone
The second race in the series was held on Tuesday night, February 1st, at Trollhaugen Alpine area at Dresser, Wisconsin. The competitors drove 45 minutes northeast from the Twin Cities, and found man-made snow and a well groomed track. The race took place on a 2.3k loop, completed 4 times. The course had several hills, the longest of which was about 700 meters long. Because of the hills and turns, the course demanded that the racers pace themselves. The snow was fairly cold, coarse, at about 28 degrees. Solda F-31 Yellow and Orange mixed with Warm Solda Flour powder gave the best glide around.
The hosts at Trollhaugen extended themselves and provided the skiers with well-groomed trails, and excellent spectator spots. Several skiers turned in top times.
The final event of the individual series of races in the 2005 Masters was the 7k-7k Same Day Pursuit. The event took place on Thursday, February 3rd at Trollhaugen. Spring conditions prevailed, with cold corn snow in the morning and soft, wet corn snow for the afternoon skate race over the same course. Both races used the same 2.3 loop from Tuesday night, plus a short 1.2k gentle loop along the bottom of the downhill area. This total loop was skied twice.
Excellent facilities and great weather for the pursuit
The chase is on!
Many close finishes!
I have participated in the National Masters each year since 2000, when they were last held in the Twin Cities. At times the conditions have been very difficult, such as wild windstorms and temperature changes at Sugarloaf, Maine in 2001, and lack of snow in Anchorage and 70 mph winds in the mountains at the alternate site, bitter cold in Marquette, Michigan in 2004, and finally in 2005 back in the Twin Cities during a winter practically without snow. The organizing committees have done a masterful job in each case, often fighting against conditions they had no control over. But the races have always been competitive, and the conditions have been generally excellent. This year, the organizers seemed especially â€œcompetitor orientedâ€. Everything was made available to the participants. We received outstanding support and I heard no complaints from the other competitors. I have nothing but compliments for the organizers.
What puzzles me is the uneven support these events have received, especially from the regional skiers. There is a cadre of competitors from around the country who use these races as the focus of their conditioning for the season and always show up, even though they compete in lots of other races in their own region of the country. Sometimes, when the conditions have been poor for skiing, the interest is understandably down. But even in good ski years, there seems to be a perception that the Masters is either too elite or too unimportant. But most participants have discovered over the years that the level of top competition in these events is extremely high, even though the total numbers are surprisingly small. Many of the very best in each age group from around the country show up every year and pride themselves in competing again at a high level. It seems like regional racers in some areas such as the Midwest have so many other events they attend that this meet interferes with other race series. I feel they are missing out, since they don’t take advantage of measuring themselves against top skier from other regions. Part of the problem has been the scheduling, sometimes as early as the third week of January, as in Marquette in 2004, and sometimes in mid-March as in Tahoe in 2002. The plan to hold the races for the next two years at the end of the season, in Bend, may help with the conflict with other races. I am hopeful that the interest continues and that master skiers will make their way to Oregon at the end of next season. I know J. D. Downing will provide us with a first class event.