Recap of New England Regional Ski Orienteering Championship

February 18, 2011

This past weekend, two orienteering clubs (CSU, UNO) put on the New England Regional Championships for ski orienteering.  Alex Jospe, Ed Despard, and Ernst Linder were the fearless leaders, and they teamed up with the Balsams Grand Resort to host the event.  The weekend featured three races: A middle distance (winning times ~50 minutes), sprint (winning time 6 minutes), and long distance race (winning times ~120 minutes).  Forty-five competitors, including three from the U.S. Ski-O team, showed up to contend for the title, and to enjoy the 87.4km of perfectly groomed skiing at the Balsams.  Temperatures were pleasant, in the 20s with a mix of sunshine and clouds, and the races went off without a hitch, thanks to an experienced crew of volunteers.

Ed Despard, Ernst Linder, and Alex Jospe, in their natural habitats during the meet.

Saturday’s middle distance race featured some significant climbs, including one slog under the powerlines affectionately referred to as the movie screen – just a big wide white expanse of snow, rising vertically in front of you.  In the elite men’s class, Adrian Owens (U.S. Ski-O Team) took the win, and in the elite women’s class, Samantha Saeger (U.S. Orienteering Team) took the win.  Full results are on the website: Ski Orienteering is all about route choice, and Ernst Linder, the course setter for the middle distance, did a good job of forcing some decisions.

The Balsams grooming crew played a crucial role during the meet – they dropped bundles of control stands at strategic locations the night before the event, so that in the morning, all we had to do was spread out the stands.  It sped up our setup time considerably, which is of highest importance to a race organizer!

A control stand – what the competitors are looking for as they ski through the course. The blue box on the board is the electronic punch: everyone carries a timing chip on their finger, and when you get to the control, you “punch” the box, and it records your split. Then at the finish, you download all of your splits, and can do some very detailed race analysis.

Saturday afternoon featured a U.S. Ski-O Team fundraiser sprint.  It was a very short course, but you were allowed to repeat it as many times as you would like, striving for the fastest time of the day.  Each time you re-did the sprint, you earned the U.S. Team some money, so really, it was a win-win situation.  The winners of the sprint (fastest male and fastest female) were Scott Pleban (U.S. Ski-O Team) and Alison Crocker (U.S. Ski-O Team).

One of the traditions of New England Ski Orienteering that we are trying to maintain is a prize for the Valentine’s sweetheart cup: chocolates to the fastest ski-o couple in New England!  Lindt Chocolates sponsored our event, and provided the prizes for both the sweetheart cup and for Sunday’s long distance event.  The Balsams provided prizes for Saturday’s middle distance race (Balsams Bark – dark chocolate and almond candies), and Niflheim Nordic provided prizes for the sprint race winners.

That evening, we had the awards ceremony, in our own room off the major dining room of the Balsams. The thing about the Balsams is that it’s a 5-star resort – you aren’t allowed in to dinner if you aren’t dressed right. Everyone was up to the challenge of dressing up, and everyone loved the dinner, which was a five-star, all-you-can-eat buffet.  It was a really good place to have an awards ceremony, and not just because you could keep going back for more dessert while we were doing awards.

All cleaned up, you can hardly recognize the usual suspects. We ended up with 60 people at the banquet, which was good for our relationship with the Balsams.

Sunday was the long distance race, and Alex Jospe, the course setter, led the longest course on quite a tour, with some significant climb.  In the elite classes, Robbie Anderson (Canadian Orienteering Team) took the win for the men, and Allison VanAkkeren (GMOC) took the top honors for the women.  Of note, Alison Crocker raced against the guys both days, and finished in second place on Sunday, behind Robbie.  Full results:

All in all, it was a great weekend of ski orienteering, and it seemed that most everyone went home in great spirits.  Thanks to all the competitors, volunteers, and organizers for making it happen!

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