Nordic SuperTour returns to Colorado with the 19th annual Owl Creek Chase presented by Coca-Cola
The USSA SuperTour, the national pro tour for Nordic skiers returns to Colorado next Saturday, Feb. 11th with the 19th annual Owl Creek Chase presented by Coca-Cola. The Owl Creek Chase is a 25-kilometer freestyle race from Snowmass to Aspen that combines an elite level pro Nordic race with the casual feel of one of the Roaring Fork Valley’s favorite citizen events. The USSA SuperTour, with 11 stops across the country, has been the United States’ top level racing series the last few seasons and this is the second consecutive year that the Owl Creek Chase has been part of the circuit.
Last year’s defending champion, Ivan Babikov of Russia will not be in Aspen to defend his title as he has been named to the Russian Olympic team and will be in Torino, Italy with medals on his mind. However, Babikov will still be here in spirit after his blistering performance last year in which he skied the Snowmass to Aspen course in a new record time of 1:07:03, a time that will be very difficult to beat. Austria’s Irene Eder also set a course record last year in the women’s race with a time of 1:17:17 and she also will not be on hand to defend her title.
With the Olympics in Torino happening at the same time and the country’s very best in Italy, this year’s Owl Creek Chase is wide open but there are favorites emerging nonetheless. Current SuperTour leaders, Maine’s David Chamberlain of Team Atomic and Switzerland’s Karin Camenisch of Team Rossignol, are expected for the Owl Creek and will be the top favorites. Chamberlain was thrown into controversy earlier this month when the U.S. Ski Team failed to name him to the Olympic squad after several top finishes at the U.S. Championships. However, he has his chance for redemption in the SuperTour, which awards prize money and a spot in a spring World Cup trip to the overall winners. Top local favorites will again be the brother/sister combination of Casey and Natalie Ward. Casey has been skiing well and looks to challenge the leaders for the victory in this year’s Chase while Natalie has been away from the Owl Creek for two seasons and looks for a possible podium finish against the country’s best.
In addition to the Nordic SuperTour race, the Owl Creek Chase citizens division will bring many of Colorado’s best citizen skiers to town as part of the Colorado Cup. With a chance to race along side some of the best in the U.S., the Owl Creek is a favorite event for citizen skiers that can compare themselves to the top level without having to travel to events all over the country. Last year’s citizen winners were Pierre Willie of Basalt and Annie Richardson of Grand Junction. Both are expected to return and defend their championships this year.
The Owl Creek Chase is scheduled for Saturday Feb. 11th at 10am starting at the Snowmass Golf Club. The race is a freestyle or skating format although classical skiers are invited to race as well. Classic track will only be set where the course is wide enough to accommodate it. The racecourse will start adjacent to the Snowmass Golf Club and commence with a large lap of the Snowmass trails before traversing across Two Creeks and on to the Owl Creek trail itself. Once on the Owl Creek trail, the racers will climb over Sinclair Divide, otherwise known as â€˜The Berlin Wall’, which is the high point of the race. From there the course rolls along the hills and meadows between Snowmass and Buttermilk before descending into Tiehack and across the Maroon Creek Bridge. Once off the hills, the racers will circle the Moore loop and the Aspen Golf Course before finishing at the Aspen Cross Country Center. After the finish the participants will be treated to a post race party, awards ceremony and raffle at Schlomo’s on the Green.
Spectators are also encouraged to come out and see the Owl Creek Chase with prime viewing spots as follows: The start at the Snowmass Golf Club and Snowmass loop, The West Buttermilk road crossing, The Tiehack descent and Maroon Creek Bridge crossing, the Aspen Golf Course loop and the finish at The Aspen Cross Country Center. The top of Sinclair divide is also a popular viewing spot although any cars parked along Owl Creek road at the top of Sinclair divide need to be entirely off the road and not interfering with traffic.
In addition, the Aspen Cross Country Center will host a â€œSkate with the Prosâ€ clinic, free of charge, on Sunday Feb. 12th. Everyone is welcome to come participate in this multi-level clinic featuring former Owl Creek Chase champion Nathan Schultz of Team FSX as well as other members of the pro Nordic teams; Subaru, Rossignol, Atomic and Alpina/Madshus.
Walk up registration for the Owl Creek Chase will be available beginning next week at The Ute Mountaineer in downtown Aspen while on-line information and registration is available at utemountaineer.com. Cost for early registration is still only $35 and will be accepted in person up until 5pm on Friday, Feb. 10th at The Ute Mountaineer. On-line registration will close at 2pm on Friday the 10th. Racers are encouraged to take a shuttle bus to the start on race day. Shuttles will begin departing the Aspen Cross Country Center at 8am and continue every 15 minutes ending with a 9am shuttle to the Snowmass Golf Club start. Racers that are pre-registered will still need to check in at the start for a mandatory timing chip pickup. Any racer may enter the Elite division, but only those with the appropriate USSA and FIS licenses will be eligible for the top 10 prize money and accompanying national ranking points. Citizen winners will be awarded a commemorative plate to record their success and all racers are eligible for the many prizes on offer in the post race raffle. For more information on the Owl Creek Chase, go to utemountaineer.com or call The Ute Mountaineer at (970) 925-2849.
Owl Creek Chase details:
Presenting Sponsor: Coca-Cola
Major Sponsors: The Ute Mountaineer, The Aspen Cross Country Center, The City of Aspen Parks and Recreation Dept., The Aspen Snowmass Nordic Council, Fischer Skis, Ski.com, Toko, Swix, NatronNordic Enterprises, Snowmass Cross Country Center, Salomon, New Belgium Brewery
Start: Sat. Feb. 11th, 10am, Snowmass Golf Club
Finish: estimated finish time for the men’s leaders, 11-11:15, Aspen Cross Country Center
Distance and style: 25km Freestyle
Affiliation: USSA SuperTour, FIS North America Marathon Cup, Colorado Cup, Aspen Town Series
Number of participants: Projected between 100 and 200
Defending Champions: Ivan Babikov (RUS) Team Subaru and Irene Eder(AUS) Alpina/Madshus
SuperTour leaders: David Chamberlain, Team Atomic and Karin Camenisch (SUI), Team Rossignol
Other Favorites: Men: Nathan Schultz — Team FSX, Casey Ward — Alpina/Madshus, Eric Meyer — Team Subaru, Women: Kristina Strandberg (SWE) — Team Subaru, Natalie Ward — Alpina/Madshus, Natasha Naryshkina (RUS) — Team Rossignol
Skate with the Pros Clinic: 9AM Sunday Feb. 12th, Aspen Cross Country Center, Free