The 35th Annual  Snow Mountain Stampede is the highest Nordic Marathon in the country as well as the only opportunity for Nordic racers to ski 50K of skate style one day and 50k of Classic the next.  Most people think a marathon is more than enough but can you imagine back to back marathons!  In the extreme conditions we had over the weekend, that was a huge undertaking.  Snow Mtn Ranch had a great title for this incredible accomplishment – Ranch Boss – and each finisher of both 50K races received a beautiful 100K belt buckle.  Those who finished both 25k races – Ranch Hand – got a 50K belt buckle. Racers came from as far away as Virginia, Alaska and Minnesota but most were from Colorado.  Snow conditions couldn’t have been more different for Saturday’s Skate races and Sunday’s conditions for the Classic. Racers who did both races, both days really earned their buckles…

Saturday the weather was relatively warm and the sky a bit overcast for the free kids 2K race until just after the 50K Skate race starting gun sounded.  Within 5 minutes the wind picked up and the snow suddenly was coming down hard and driving sideways.  You couldn’t even see the willows at the bottom of the hill.  The temperature dropped and you could see the skiers begin to struggle.  As the snow blew in and covered old tracks, racers could barely make out the racer in front of them. Elliott groomed with the snowmobile between laps and you could barely tell the difference. The course had been changed just days before the race to remain on Snow Mtn Ranch property starting in the Pole Creek Valley, looping up Heckman, across Swenson, charging up Gaskill, looping Upper Young to Eagle Valley and screaming down Blue Ridge.  The course looped back to the side of the Nordic Center and back out to circle Keenan, Cranmer and Lynch before lapping in front of the Nordic Center and, for some, doing it over once again.  25K was one loop and 50 K was two loops.  The 10K stayed more in the valley itself.  With the new snow, howling wind and dropping temperatures, it was tough conditions and slow going.

Charlie and I skied to check on aid station volunteers and supplies.  The Rite of Passage School had a team of some ski racers but mostly just guys manning an aid station as they have done for as long as I can remember. Some of them don’t even know how to ski!  On that blustery day, they were out at the base of Young, the farthest aid station from the Nordic Center.  They were cold and wet and not really functioning well.  So into lesson mode we went and soon the boys were hopping up and down, swinging arms in circles and learning to stride fast to keep warm. They even learned to run up the nearby hill on their skis just to glide back down shouting and screaming, soon forgetting that they were ever cold.  That bunch of boys couldn’t wait to come back the next day for the Classic Races.

Just after the last racers crossed the finish line and the awards were handed out to overall and age class winners, the fickle weather turned again.  As the racers finished off the excellent post-race lunch, the sun came out and the winds calmed.  What a difference an hour makes!

Next day dawned cold and crisp for the Classic races starting again with the free kids 2K race. Head groomer Shawn had been out much of the night packing in the new snow and creating the best classic tracks many of the racers had ever seen. The sun was out, the wind was almost still, and the tracks held up well.  A perfect day for Classic racing!  Times were fast and racers were feeling great!  I think all the racers even remembered the time change.

How do you manage to combine one of the most difficult days for any kind of skiing filled with fresh blowing snow and howling wind with one of the most perfect Classic race days ever, complete with cold perfect tracks and sunshine?  Somehow these two extremes made an epic weekend than many will never forget – especially the handful of people who skied both days, both races for a total of 50K or 100K.  Sure gives me a new appreciation for the term Ironman.

Locals did well and the kids stole the show and took home about half of the honors offered. For instance, Sam Gurarie from Boulder won both the Freestyle and Classic kids 2K races. The Classic race went down to the wire with Adrien Brower from Granby right on his heels. Zack Smith from Dillon walked away with the 10K Freestyle in 37.34 with Guy Granger IV from Granby in Third overall.  More  EGMS and MPHS guys including Wil Cleveland, Graydon Walker and Nick Forquer came on strong behind them.  For the women, it was Sylvia Brower from the EGMS team across the line first in 46.26 .  The 25K Freestyle was won by Nathan Schultz from Boulder in 1:33 with female Tabor Scholl from Kremmling hot on his heels finishing 1:34.  Dad Shawn Scholl was close behind at 1:37 as well as Dave Cleveland from Fraser, Vince Call from SMR and Sallie Brasill from Granby. The 50K men’s race was won by Seth Downs from Alaska in 3:11 with Odd Bevsvendsen from Granby 2nd in his age class.  Tammy Jacques took the women’s Skate race in 3:52.

In Sunday’s 10K Classic, Guy Granger IV took the Men’s division in 39.20 . Zach Larter from Boulder finished next in 41.56 with his mom Tina Gini Larter chasing him over the line in 42.08.  Sylvia Brower was only a minute behind at 43.01.  Tyler Scholl from Kremmling and Theo Loo from Fraser ran away with the Men’s 25K Classic in 1:23 and 1:28 respectively. Dad Shawn Scholl was quick to follow at 1:31, Sister Tabor Scholl was right behind at 1:38 winning the women’s title. Jack Ellefson from SMR was second in his age class, Sally Brasill from Granby second in hers, and Vince Call won the 60 and over class.  Way out in front for the 50K, Dan Weinberger from Boulder finished in a fast 2:59 with Odd Bersvendsen from Granby 2nd in 3:14 just beating out Matt Klick from Dumont. Jitka O’Farrell from Lakewood won the Women’s 50K Classic in 4:28.

Five people received the BOSS 100K belt buckle for finishing both Classic and freestyle races. About 12 people received the RANCH HAND 50K belt buckle for finishing both Classic and freestyle races. Congratulations to all finishers.  These races would not have been possible with the dedication of Bill Pierce and his crew at snow Mtn Ranch with a special shut out to Anne Ellefson.  It takes a team of both staff and volunteers many hours of coordination and planning to make it all work and help from Mother Nature as well.  Great job to all of you!!!  A very worthwhile event!