Hordes of Midwestern high schools skier, master blaster clinics, and opening Supertour tensions in West Yellowstone were all new experiences this year. Somehow over the course of my skiing career, I had never managed to make the thanksgiving trek to West Yellowstone. Of the elite field, I think I am one of the few that can list this accomplishment. However, at some point all streaks come to an end. Actually that streak coming to an end is a good thing. Unlike last year, I didn’t have to follow along with the single camera live video feed. I didn’t get annoyed with spectators and coaches standing in front of the live feed camera and instead could go stand in front of it myself. (Actually I don’t know if the camera was setup this year.)
After last year emerging from Halloween with ski pieces sticking out of my leg and a couple chunks of blood stuck in my lungs, I really thought something was going to jam into my arm or at least throw a broken bone into my plans. After so many years, getting on the plane to leave for West Yellowstone seemed surreal. However, jumping up to altitude, seeing all the competitors, and signing hundreds of posters for the mobs of Midwestern high school skiers brought things quickly into focus. It is hard not to be fired up when the hundreds of high schoolers braved an epic bus ride from Minnesota and are still psyched to go skiing. Soon we were testing skis, discussing strategy, and race day logistics and the races were upon us.
Relative to all the other happenings the races were actually quite uneventful. On the first day, I managed to wrangle up a single Supertour point in the skate sprint by finishing 20th. The exciting part of my heat occurred early on with a bit of aggressive cornering and one of the six in my heat crashing right behind me. After that I was boxed in a bit, but managed to pass one person in the final stretch to move into fourth. While not quite the result I was looking for, I did move up and made a few aggressive moves. Overall, it left me looking forward to more sprints this season, especially sprints on longer harder courses.
The following day’s distance race was defined by flat, grinding terrain enhanced by the altitude of over 6,000 feet. While these features would not by my choice for course design, they do suit some of my strengths. I managed to lay down the fastest first lap; unfortunately in this case a strong start does not define the race. I faded a bit while several of my competitors charged their last lap pushing me back to third place. Again I was looking for more, but pleased to have finally developed a history with West Yellowstone. No longer will I be the outsider who has never made the journey to West.