Disclaimer: The author skied both days and was one member of the large S2S organizing committee. This may seem like a conflict of interest, but also allows a more detailed look behind the curtain at how a new event was built.
When the moment comes to create a new destination ski marathon, how would you compile all of your dreams and mould them into a single cohesive weekend?
A group of Canadian skiers was faced with that question in the spring of 2021. And they found an answer.
Start with twos. Two interconnected ski areas. Two days. Two techniques. Two distances. Two finish line parties.
Using that model, the first annual Sovereign2SilverStar Ski Marathon was a success, at least as measured by smiles.
The weekend kicked off with a classic day on Saturday, April 2nd. The first wave for the 21km course left at 8:30 am, followed by the 40km waves at 9:05. Predicted weather was cloudy with afternoon snow, but the first flurries hit about 8 am, setting the tone for the day.
Of the 195 finishers on Saturday, the majority were on skin skis. Many of the skiers who chose grip wax were fooled by the race date into waxing for ‘typical’ spring skiing. However, when the groomed track is set at -5C, with fresh, cold snow overnight and more dry snow falling, blue hard wax is a better choice. Three of the six athletes on the 40km podium chose VR45 covered with VR30. The Organizing Committee (OC) posted a recommendation of Swix VP45 or V45 (the event encouraged fluoro-free waxing) on Friday afternoon. Early Saturday morning, the wax recommendation was updated to VP45 covered by VP40, except that this update didn’t get shared. Oops! Add that to the list for next year.
Benoit Chauvet last skied on the World Cup in 2010 and now coaches at Toby Creek, in BC. And he did place higher in the skate 40km.
Skate day on Sunday was overcast without significant snowfall, resulting in faster conditions and a larger field of 255 finishers.
As on Saturday, the 21km waves started first at 8:30, followed by the 40km waves at 9:05. This added a fun twist as the faster 40km skiers were passing the average 21km skiers coming into the finish. Despite the number of finishers, the largest of the nine waves had 42 skiers, which meant there was a lot of room to work with.
The course crossed a number of alpine runs on the final long descent to the finish. The course marshals, who were tasked with preventing collisions, were also ringing cowbells to energize the passing skiers. Many alpine skiers and snowboarders stayed on to cheer when the marshals signalled they were free to move. It was a new experience for many participants to see spectators 4km away from the finish, cheering and recording phone videos.
Participants who skied both days were prepared to be greeted at the finish by a dance team, lead by a hot dog. Some people were smiling because they were excited to have completed the distance, and some were smiling at the welcome.
The pandemic has greatly reduced international travel, with many skiers choosing to defer trips. S2S had one Europe-based skier registered, a Norwegian-born Swede who happened to be in Canada for a vacation.
“It’s a very fun course,” Asbjørn Grøvlen said after finishing the 40km classic. “I would recommend this one.” He went on to explain that many Ski Classics courses in Europe are just double poling and it was a nice change to stride more. Grøvlen, like a number of others, chose to do both 40km days.
The overall podiums went to elite skiers, many of whom volunteered to present medals to the age group podiums.
Dahria Beatty was the first woman to the finish on the classic day, followed by Katherine Stewart-Jones, Novie McCabe, and Mariah Bredal. Bredal had registered late and started in the second wave, which left her 0.3 seconds behind Beatty for second place overall. Another learning moment for year two, save a few extra bibs in the elite wave for last day registrants.
There was a rumour on Saturday morning that Luke Jager would double pole on skate skis, as he “always does that on long classic courses.” Jager, found before the start while applying grip wax to his skis, disagreed.
In a world where ‘us versus them’ often creates divisions between similar communities, it was fun to watch alpine skiers and snowboarders stopping on Main Street to cheer on nordic finishers.
“That is so cool,” one twenty-something snowboarder said to his friends. “We are doing this next year!”
Mike Mandli, an American master who has travelled the world to ski, summed up the weekend: “This was a skier’s dream. One of the best dreams ever.”
For results, more videos, Andy Newell’s waxing advice, and over 2,000 photos, visit the event page.