Apr 06, 2012

Back to Back 12 hours of Sunlight and Power of Four

During the month of March, the Aspen Valley hosted two longer, endurance oriented ski mountaineering races - both challenging the participant with length, terrain as well as difficult weather conditions. In fact in the time it took me to get my act together and post this more distance events have hit the race calendar - the Grand Traverse last weekend and the Breckenridge Five Peaks set to take place this coming weekend. Colorado is really getting its game on as far as skimo racing is concerned - its great to see. I entered both races listed above with the ultimate goal of getting fit for my end of season goal the Patrol des Glaciers in Switzerland and to make up for all the pizza and avocados I have been eating.

Its always a fun event with Team Mahon
Its always a fun event with Team Mahon

February 25th, Sunlight Ski Resort held the 12 Hours of Sunlight. I did this event last year with Adam Frisch and we decided to do it again as training for the upcoming Power of Four and because we had a such great time last year. The course while only 1500 feet in elevation included all kinds of terrain, flats, steeps and a few turns through the woods. The turn around at the top was a bit higher that the year before, not too much extra ascent but just enough to be annoying around lap six or so. Snow coverage was not as good this year making the descent filled with rollers and the steep uphill sections, well, steeper.

Team Meyer-Frisch post win
Team Meyer-Frisch post win

Last year weather and sun were on our side - and this year true to the habits of the season the wind howled all day long. Ripping skins at the top turn around proved tricky and blowing snow was not only irritating but also blew fine baby powder snow onto the course making skinning more difficult. I was very happy to finish my last lap and thankful the ski patrol cleared the course of the fallen debris for the final descent in the dark. Although I could not drink it - I loved how all the volunteers crowded in the finish tent and presented me a beer when I crossed the line - thanks guys!

Katy making the troops a great pre-Power of Four dinner
Katy making the troops a great pre-Power of Four dinner

Adam and I had a solid race, starting out the day with faster splits but as the day progressed and our lead grew and we eased back into a more comfortable pace. We did 20 laps total and won the co-ed relay division. Adding it all up we did 15,000 feet of climbing each and about ten miles each. Congrats also to Billy Laird for winning the men’s solo division, and Kerry White for winning the female solo division. Full results of the day can be found here. Everyone who participated deserves kudos for dealing with the elements. While excellent training, its not the most varied event and it remains as always the great people racing and volunteers made the race event fun. Congrats and thanks to second place co-ed relay Ted and Christy Mahon who always make competing an enjoyable experience.

Finish Power of Four at Gondola Plaza, Ajax.Finish Power of Four at Gondola Plaza, Ajax.

The 12 hours is a great confidence booster for the Power of Four which took place March 3rd. This beast of a race began in Snowmass and touches all four mountains finishing in Aspen’s Gondola Plaza. The course covered 25 miles and over 11,500 feet touching a max elevation of 12,300 feet. The majority of the race was held over 9000 feet.

Lyndsay and Sari at the finish
Lyndsay and Sari at the finish

Again, weather was not on our side. Cloud cover kept the temperature low and tempest winds aloft smacked windchills of -20F in our faces. Temperature at the start line in Snowmass was zero at 6:30am. I raced with good friend and insane athlete Sari Anderson. I was happy to let Sari set the pace as she is definitely stronger climber. We used an elastic to keep us together and communicated well. It was a great opportunity to push myself and go faster than I normally would alone and it kept us together as a team. She set a great pace on the ups and I chose the line on the descents, with the exception of getting too close to a small tree. I only wish my new Alien 1.0 carbon boots were ready for the race - oh well, next year.

Arriving at the top of Snowmass, Photo by Jeremy Swanson
Arriving at the top of Snowmass, Photo by Jeremy Swanson

At the base of Aspen Highlands, our second major climb of roughly 4300 feet (1300 meters) my hands were frozen from the last descent. The first few minutes of climbing was excruciating as I suffered through the thawing known as the “screaming barfies.” All water and food that was not shoved into our suits was frozen solid. The snow was cold creating a need for good and efficient skinning technique. Sari continued to set a great pace and we began to warm up, even sweat a bit.

Jack and Jari, mixed team champions
Jack and Jari, mixed team champions

I knew we were in trouble when the ski patrols skiing down starting shouting that “it is really blowing up there,” in reference to conditions on the Highlands Bowl Ridge which tops out at 12,300 (3800 meters). We stopped and put jackets on before entering the tempest - and it really was a tempest. Sustained 40mph winds with up to 60mph gusts. We had hoods up and buffs on our faces. Skins on we flew up the bowl almost getting blown over a few times. I hd frozen fingers at the top and was fumbling to pull my skins properly. The snow down Ozone (45 degrees) was awesome - but we had to stop a minute for Sari to scrape ice off my face. My buff had gotten wet and froze to my face leaving some frostbite - or as everyone called it the “Highlands Tattoo” on my right cheek.

Women's podium
Women’s podium

The start of the last 3300 foot climb up Midnight Mine we met Sari’s husband Ian with her son Axel who was not sure he liked the look of mommy Sari in her skimo outfit. The last climb we really hit our stride and cruised up the backside of Aspen mountain in good time gaining time on the teams behind us. My water thawed as did the coke our friend Nick handed off to us at the top of Highlands.

Riding delux style in the back of the truck to get our cars
Riding delux style in the back of the truck to get our cars

Due to avalanche terrain the end of the course was lengthened adding extra distance finishing along Richmond Ridge. Ripping skins for a last descent we flew down Aspen (helps to be on home turf) and crossed the line in second place. The cold made it one of the more brutal events I have ever suffered through, but my teammate and friend Sari made it as fun as possible in such conditions. We stayed calm and even managed to laugh a bit. Congrats to all that finished in such tough conditions and to local boys Pete and John Gaston for taking the men’s title with two seconds to spare and Gemma and Stevie for being the speedy winning women. A big thanks to the Aspen Valley Ski Patrols and Aspen Expeditions for putting on a great event in challenging conditions. For a full list of results, click here. For Kevin Krill’s awesome photo gallery, click here.

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