The Farmer’s Almanac predicted a bitter-cold winter for the 2013/2014 ski season. Whether or not you believe in the popular book’s fables and speculation, the forecast hadn’t been far off for much of the New England winter thus far.
All trails were open and freshly groomed a week and a half before the Colby Carnival, the opening event of the EISA Collegiate Nordic season. The Quarry Road Recreation Area in Waterville, Maine was looking to be in prime shape. After opening the previous Carnival season in Lake Placid on shovel-assisted trails and trucked-in snow, many EISA skiers were looking forward to getting the 2013/14 season off to a more wintry start.
Unfortunately, warm weather and rain began to spell trouble for Colby’s ski area with just over a week until the first race. With overnight temperatures too high for snowmaking, organizers waited and watched as the course gradually deteriorated. The most severe damage occurred in the stadium area, which ultimately led to a change of format: Saturday’s mass start freestyle races would need to be shortened and changed to the individual-start format.
Despite the disruptive weather, the trails at Quarry Road were surprisingly resilient. With some impressive planning and grooming, the races were held on a 2.5 kilometer loop that incorporated much of the original 5k homologated race course, including a long “A” climb and a tricky s-turn descent. Friday’s 5 and 10 kilometer classic races would be run as planned.
FRIDAY: 5/10k Classic
In weather and snow conditions more reminiscent of late-March spring skiing than January race season, rain and softening tracks made for a classic New England day of interesting klister and wax combinations. Intermittent burst of rain kept technicians and racers on their toes throughout the day, and the emergence of the sun near the end of the men’s race changed the course further.
In the women’s race, Anja Gruber provided some consistency among the madness of the previous week’s weather changes and course alterations. The UVM skier, and 2013 NCAA Champion in this same event, picked up where she left off on Friday. Gruber took first place, nearly 20 seconds ahead of Dartmouth’s Annie Hart. Gruber’s teammate, UVM’s Stephanie Kirk, finished in third place.
The UVM women eked out a narrow 2-point victory in the team score over the Big Green. Thanks to some impressive skiing by newcomers Amy Bianco (7th) and Olivia Amber (11th), as well as veteran Lizzie Anderson (14th), the Colby women notched third place in the team score at their home carnival.
Conditions were softer and the corners a bit icier for the men’s race, though that clearly didn’t slow down Dartmouth’s Silas Talbot. Talbot finished over 34 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor, Middlebury’s Ben Lustgarten. Racing as a guest, Maine Winter Sports Center’s Welly Ramsey finished in third overall, though points for third in the collegiate race were awarded to Dartmouth’s David Sinclair.
Talbot and Sinclair, along with Jan Ketterson (11th), were able to put Dartmouth ahead of UVM in the team score, while UNH finished third.
SATURDAY: 10/15k Freestyle
Though colder temps moved in overnight, the effects of Friday’s races were evident on the course during Saturday’s skate event. During the classic races, 188 competitors raced a total of 558 laps of the 2.5k course. Corners were icy, with some patches of slick trail hidden by a faint layer of sugary snow. Volunteers and race organizers shoveled as best they could to keep conditions safe and fair for all competitors.
Women raced a total of four laps, and UVM’s Linda Dandvind-Malm gave the Catamounts another individual victory. Despite slowing down a bit with the third-fastest split on her last lap, Dandvind-Malm held on to win the race ahead of Dartmouth’s Annie Hart, who took home her second runner-up placing of the weekend. Friday’s winner, Anja Gruber, raced the fastest final lap to nab the last spot on the podium and help the Catamount women to their second team title in as many days.
The men’s race, at 6 laps total, meant there was often larger groups of skiers racing together in packs. As early seeds raced their middle laps, later seeds began their races, leading to a somewhat crowded course during the middle of the event.
Last season, UVM’s Scott Patterson made a show of every distance skate race, putting massive gaps on the field and skiing away solo for the win. The multiple laps and short course at Quarry Road didn’t allow Patterson to be as visually dominant as the last year, but it was evident from early on that little had changed in his strategy. Patterson went hard from the start and piled up time on his competitors, skiing to a commanding minute-plus victory over newcomer Patrick Caldwell of Dartmouth. Consistent in his form and in his technique versatility, Ben Lustgarten (Middlebury) again finished on the podium in third.
UVM took top honors in the team title on Saturday, followed closely by Dartmouth. Led by Akeo Maifeld-Carucci in 5th place, the Harvard men’s team placed their scoring trio (Maifeld-Carucci, Anthony Ryerson III and Chris Stock) in the top 24 to secure third place for the Crimson.
In a cruel but overall positive twist, snow moved into the East Coast on Sunday and Monday, bringing more traditional winter weather to the area. This should set up conditions well for the next stop on the EISA circuit. On Friday the UNH Wildcats will host individual-start classic races, as well as the first mass-start freestyle event of the season, in Jackson, NH.
Results from the event can be found at Bart Timing
Adam Terko is the assistant coach of the St. Lawrence University Ski Team