Sovereign Lake Hosts 1st Annual Enduro Ski Race (with Video)

Gerry FursethMay 17, 2018

VERNON, British Columbia — Each year, the Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre reopens its trails in May to let skiers start the new training season on snow at its annual Spring Fling Ski Camp.  In addition to the local skiers, groups came from Whitehorse, Canmore, Saskatchewan, and Methow Valley to absorb some Vitamin D and snow. The longest travel award goes to Mark who travelled from Atlanta, Georgia, for a long weekend on snow.

Day three of Spring Fling, May 12th, 2018. (Photo: Gerry Furseth)
Crusty morning on Day 3 of Sovereign Lake’s 2018 Spring Fling Ski Camp on May 12.

The trails were open from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day to take advantage of the cooler mornings, with a crusty start and a soft layer over a firm base later on. Air temperatures rose from 1 degree Celsius to 10-15 degrees by noon (34 degrees Fahrenheit to 50-60 F). Most athletes skated early, switched to classic as the snow softened, and then headed down to the valley for biking, running, and paddle boarding in the afternoon.

While there was enough snow to open the whole system, the club only set about 20 kilometers each day as there were only a few hundred skiers expected.

Last year’s innovation was the pushup time trial, which was so much fun it was repeated with double the participation on Saturday, May 12.

This year, the club added an ‘enduro’ race on Sunday, May 13 to spice things up.

Enduro is a popular mountain-bike race format, with a defined course that everyone must complete, but only the downhill stages are timed. The winner is the person whose total time for the timed stages is the lowest.

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The response from the 53 participants was generally positive, with most wanting to repeat the event next year.  Many suggested the long flat runout at the end of Stage 2 didn’t feel flat with soft, sticky snow in the sunshine on race day. A few said they were going to copy the event at their home ski area next season.

The official course map. The green sections are timed stages, the red is the route to the next stage.
The official course map. The green sections are timed stages, the red is the route to the next stage.

How to Host an Enduro

Pick a course that is safe for the snow conditions you’re dealt. Especially in spring, transitions can be dangerous. When the predicted high on race day was 17 C, the start time was advanced by an hour and the stages were slightly modified for safety.

Balance the distance with the number of athletes you expect to attend. Sovereign used a 20 k loop with three stages of roughly 1 k, 1.5 k and 4 k.

If your budget doesn’t suit chip timing, have the racers self-time their sections. This event used four volunteers. One covered the front desk in the day lodge while the manager started the event. Three wrote down the self-reported stage times on clipboards. Strava is an option for mountain-bike events, but not many skiers carry a GPS.

Plan for some slow skiing. Many athletes skied the non-timed sections as a group chat. The transfer to the start of Stage 3 had a total climb of about 250 meters which, combined with hot and sunny weather, made for a very slow average pace with the first finishers arriving about 30 minutes later than estimated.

Focus on fun. There are no FIS points for this race format, which means the organization can be very laid back. As this was the fourth day of a volume camp for most athletes, participants were more focussed on having fun than winning. Women’s winner Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt didn’t check the results and was surprised to be awarded a prize (a 10-day Sovereign punch pass) as she packed her skis at the end of the weekend.

Official results were not available at press time, but it appeared Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt (Rocky Mountain Racers) won the women’s enduro and Sam Hendry (Canmore Nordic) was the men’s winner.

Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt (RMR), Maya MacIsaac-Jones (U25 national team and RMR), and Hannah Mehain (Sovereign Lake) at the finish.
From left to right: Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt of Rocky Mountain Racers (RMR), Maya MacIsaac-Jones (National U25 Team and RMR), and Hannah Mehain (Sovereign Lake) at the finish.

Gerry Furseth

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