Local racers dominate Snow Mountain Ranch cross country skiing event
March 15, 2017
The temperature is rising in Grand County and before long winter will shift into mud season on its inexorable march towards summer.
It is a bittersweet time for many who call the high country home. Many residents of Grand County long for the joyous warmth of summer, but often cling to winter and the recreational opportunities provided by deep snow. Last weekend Nordic skiers in Middle Park, and from across the state, got one of their last chances to competitively take to the trails at the 33rd annual YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch Stampede.
The Snow Mountain Ranch Stampede is a time-honored tradition for many families in Grand County and is held at the Snow Mountain Ranch property just south of Granby. Normally, the Stampede is held entirely on the YMCA property. For the first time ever this year the Stampede began at the YMCA and ended at Granby Ranch.
The event is broken down into two days with skate style races held the first day and classic style races held the second. Racing each day is broken down into 10K, 25K and 50K distances. There is also a 2K kids race for the youngest skiers.
Grand County athletes had a strong showing at the race. Multiple local high school athletes participated in the Stampede and more than one took home a podium finish.
The action got underway Saturday in conditions that were less than optimal. Warm temperatures and little cloud cover created sloppy mushy snow that forced racers to struggle up hills and worked their legs and lungs to the breaking point.
Middle Park High student Theo Loo finished in second place Saturday in the 25K freestyle race with a total time of 1:32:16. Also finishing in the top 20 in the 25K freestyle Saturday were Grand County residents Dan Jamison (10th), Elliot Shaw (11th) and Patrick Brower (16th). A total of 60 individuals competed in the 25K freestyle Saturday.
The shorter 10K race also had several locals finish near the top of the pack. Winter Park resident Kimo Sullivan finished in sixth-place Saturday and was closely followed by Fraser resident Wil Cleveland and Granby resident Guy Granger who took eighth and ninth-place respectively. There were 29 competitors in the 10K freestyle race.
Local racers dominated the 50K freestyle Saturday. Granby's Ben Koenig took second place and finished just 36 seconds behind first. High school endurance athlete Tyler (Ty) Scholl finished third with a total time of 2:55:28. Not surprisingly Tyler's dad Shawn Scholl finished just over two-minutes behind his son with a total time of 2:57:32 and was the fourth-place racer in the 50K Saturday.
The 2K kids freestyle race featured 11 competitors, all of which were under the age of 12. Granby's Adrien Brower, 8, finished in third place and was the only athlete from Grand County that competed in the 2K.
The action continued Sunday with different but still challenging weather conditions. Cloud cover kept the temperature lower than Saturday but intermittent snow flurries created relatively wide temperature swings and forced racers to game plan the waxes and equipment they would use. The number of competitors was significantly less Sunday versus Saturday.
Sunday's 50K classic race featured a total of 19 athletes. Granby's Ben Koenig managed to take first in the race with a total time of 3:17:43. Kirk Olson of Tabernash also competed and finished 10th with a 4:24:50 total time.
Middle Park student Theo Loo took the top spot in the 25K race on Sunday and finished first after a close contest. Loo bested the second-place racer by a scant two-seconds. Not far behind was Middle Park senior Elliot Shaw who finished in third place with a 1:37:42 total time.
The 10K classic race saw a total of six competitors Sunday. Guy Granger of Granby finished in second place with a 54:15 total time.
Middle Park High athlete Ty Scholl competed in his first 50K race over the weekend. Scholl said he was happy with the race results but highlighted how difficulty created by the conditions. "I led for 40K," Scholl said. "But I did what is called bonking, when you pretty much run out of energy. I bonked and cramped up in the last 10K."
Scholl said he had anticipated relatively icy conditions going into the race but thanks to a light overnight snowstorm the trails were sporting a some fresh powder. "In Nordic skiing a layer of new fresh snow makes things slower," he said. "I would say the conditions were probably about 40 minutes slower because of the new snow."
Scholl's race began at 9 a.m. He finished just before noon. Even as he was finishing his race though the air temperature in the valley was climbing, creating what Scholl called, "mashed potato snow."
"The last part of the course was definitely mashed potatoes," he said.
Also racing over the weekend was one of Grand County's most outspoken advocates for the sport of Nordic skiing, Diana Lynn Rau. Rau competed in the 25K classic Sunday where she finished with a total time of 2:55:43.
"It was a climbers race this year," Rau said. "The conditions were exactly what you would expect from springtime in the Rockies. One day was slush. The skate race deteriorated to slush by the time the racers were finishing the 50K."
According to Rau, the difficult conditions resulted in more than a few crashes and gave a slight competitive advantage to racers with solid downhill skiing backgrounds. Rau was thrilled with how Grand County residents performed in the Stampede. "This year's event belonged to the locals," she said. "Our kids took top spots all over."
Rau herself took home 18th in the 25K classic and was the fourth-place female racer over the weekend, according to race results from the YMCA. Rau took first place in her respective age division.