Climb to the Castle Preview and Pick the Podium Contest

Nathaniel HerzOctober 5, 201010

Every region in the U.S. seems to have its own iconic dryland hill climb. In Alaska, there’s Mount Marathon. Out west, it’s Agony. In the Midwest—well, uh… forget about the Midwest. But in the northeast, there’s one of the most brutal: the Whiteface Climb to the Castle.

Okay, okay, we know. Mount Marathon’s got more history. Agony’s steeper. This year’s Climb to the Castle is only the fourth-ever edition of the event. But there’s no question that the race, which features over 2,000 feet of elevation gain over five miles, is a spectacle. And with just one month to go before the start of the 2011 race season, it’s also a good indication of who’s hot, and who’s not.

Women's lead pack 2009 - Ida Sargent leading Arritola, Stephen, Strandberg, and Dreissigacker.

This year’s field is a strong one, with Olympic gold medalist Billy Demong and U.S. Ski Team (USST) member Kris Freeman on the men’s side, and USST teammates Morgan Arritola and Liz Stephen headlining the women. Instead of making our own predictions, we’re asking readers to pick who they think will be the first to make it to the top (form below). To aid with prognostication, your cheat sheet is below.

• A couple of nordic combined skiers ran away with last year’s men’s race, with the aid of their blistering fast Maplus rollerskis. (Most cross-country athletes use Marwes, which are substantially slower.) Those athletes—Nick Hendrickson and Taylor Fletcher—will be back this year, but according to their coach, Dave Jarrett, they’ll be on different skis—“probably slightly faster than Marwes, but not like last year.” Most of the other athletes should be on comparable equipment—but we make no guarantees.

• Who are the contenders? Well, beyond the U.S. cross-country and nordic combined teams, Sun Valley, CXC, and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project will send full squads to the race. On the men’s side, Freeman and Demong are the obvious favorites, but the 20-year-old Fletcher served notice of his potential over the summer, setting the fastest rollerski time at an elite nordic combined competition in Germany in August.

U.S. cross-country development team member Noah Hoffman can’t be counted out in an uphill climb, either—he finished second to Ivan Babikov in the race up the Lonesome Pines alpine ski area at the SuperTour Finals last March. And CXC has a threatening quadrumvirate in Brian Gregg, Tad Elliott, Garrott Kuzzy, and Matt Liebsch. Finally, a dark horse could be Australian cross-country Olympian and aspiring nordic combined athlete Ben Sim.

• The women’s field isn’t quite as deep, but those with the fitness to test Stephen and Arritola include Dartmouth/Craftsbury’s Ida Sargent, CXC’s Brooke Gosling, and Craftsbury’s Hannah Dreissigacker.

A full list of the entrants that FasterSkier could confirm at the time of posting is below. The initial version of this post left out the participation of Australian Olympian Ben Sim. If anyone wants to revise their entries, just submit a second one.

Men’s Field

U.S. Cross-Country Ski Team: Kris Freeman, Simi Hamilton, Noah Hoffman, Andy Newell

U.S. Nordic Combined Team: Brett Camerota, Eric Camerota, Billy Demong, Bretty Denney, Taylor Fletcher, Bryan Fletcher, Nick Hendrickson, Todd Lodwick

Central Cross-Country (CXC): Tad Elliott, Brian Gregg, Garrott Kuzzy, Matt Liebsch, Karl Nygren, Santiago Ocariz, Eric Wolcott

Sun Valley Olympic Development Team: Matt Gelso, Colin Rodgers, Mike Sinnott

Craftsbury Green Racing Project: Matt Briggs, Oliver Burruss, Dylan McGuffin, Patrick O’Brien, Tim Reynolds

Ski Club Vail/Team Homegrown: Sylvan Ellefson

Team Hardwood: Scott Hill, Nick Monette, Patrick Monette, Evan O’Dell

Equipe Quebec: Mathieu Fortin

Peru Nordic: Jerry Curcio, Jim Kobak, Joseph Korzenecki, Christopher Rose, Jon Santor

New York Ski Educational Foundation: Zach Daniels

Australian National Team: Jackson Bursill, Ben Sim

FasterSkier Elite: Nat Herz, Peter Minde, Topher Sabot

Women’s Field

U.S. Cross-Country Ski Team: Morgan Arritola, Liz Stephen

Central Cross-Country (CXC): Jenny Bender, Jessie Diggins, Brooke Gosling, Melissa Schwartz

Sun Valley Olympic Development Team: Katie Bono

Craftsbury Green Racing Project: Hannah Dreissigacker, Lauren Jacobs, Ida Sargent

U.S. Biathlon Association: Laura Spector

Maine Coast Nordic: Adele Espy

And to get you in the right mood, here are some highlights of last year’s event, held in the rain, cold and wind.  The contest form is just after the video.

Some cool FasterSkier schwag to the winner.

Nathaniel Herz

Nat Herz is an Alaska-based journalist who moonlights for FasterSkier as an occasional reporter and podcast host. He was FasterSkier's full-time reporter in 2010 and 2011.

Loading Facebook Comments ...


  • chuck-norris

    October 5, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    What!?!? No iconic event in the midwest… hello, OO TT.

    Seen a lot of Maplus rollerskis in the jumpers rooms.

    …the climb to chuck norris’s castle

  • kobak1791w

    October 6, 2010 at 4:27 am

    Don’t underestimate Peru Nordic and the awesome power of RAZOR SCOOTER WHEELS! Ski and Destroy!

  • nordicguy

    October 6, 2010 at 7:49 am

    DQ for any of the wussies rollin on anything but Marwe. Come on NC guys man up!


    October 6, 2010 at 9:22 am

    Nat Herz podium, no doubt. Cheers to Duncan Douglas attending?

    Can we discuss the ethics of rollerski wheel speed for this race? You could slap on 100mm rollerblade wheels and go super fast, but it just doesn’t seem right. Seems like the spirit of the race is lost if you trick out your rollerskis.

    But there are no rules against it, right? Would you feel bad if you beat Kris Freeman or Nat Herz on tricked out equipment?

  • Jake

    October 6, 2010 at 10:26 am

    I’m not sure why there should be rules about ski speed in an off-season rollerski race that is part of a training camp. Kris Freeman or Newell or whoever might be bit angry when they are beat by someone because of differences in rollerski speed, but isn’t it better for them to have somebody there to push them, and make the workout into a competition? And for the athlete who will get destroyed by Kris in the winter but can keep up on fast rollerskis, isn’t it better to have the opportunity to duke it out with one of the world’s best? A lot can be learned by destroying yourself to follow somebody like Freeman for 15 seconds when he passes you in the winter. I think there would be even more to learn by racing against him in the summer, even if you know that all things being equal you couldn’t keep up. If I had that opportunity, I would take it.

  • Martin Hall

    October 6, 2010 at 11:04 am

    In my estimation the podium or the win is 2nd place in comparison from the previous years time—I would encourage my skiers to use the exact same set up as they did last year so they can compare times which brings a level of validity to the test—that is if the conditions are near equal. Am I ahead or behind where I was last year—if behind—I now can make training program adjustments, as I have 3 weeks before we hit snow and the real racing circuit.
    Other wise with all the different speeds of the skis it is just a great test for each individual in comparison to no one else other then themselves.
    All good skiers should realize this and carry out the test in their own format.
    That’s the way I see it.

  • Martin Hall

    October 6, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Nat—sorry on picking Topher—but this is an upper body race and he has more upper body then you—he bucked more bails then you did!!!!!

  • kobak1791w

    October 6, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    why debate. if it was on snow everyone would try to make their skis as fast as possible… why be different going up whiteface? if you wheel dope, you’re just going to suffer for less time. I say the Nordic Combined guys have it right. Go as fast as you can in a race. Like Jacked up Old Man would say,” you don’t bring a pea shooter to a gun fight” Ski Evil!

  • bbrooker

    October 7, 2010 at 7:12 am

    along with the results they should list the rollerskis used by each athlete, then we could see who go their butt kicked even though they were on faster skis 🙂 also they should class the skis like they do in canoe racing if you want to keep arguing on who’s the champ on getting to the top! if anything it’s going to be a beautiful day enjoy our great adirondacks!

  • nexer

    October 7, 2010 at 7:41 am

    Glide test all the rollerskis and calculate a handicap.

Leave a Reply