Stagecoach Classic, Jan. 23, race day tips, feed stations along the course
On Jan. 23 Devil’s Thumb Ranch will host the third annual Stagecoach Classic Nordic ski race. The Stagecoach is a “point-to-point” race which starts at Devil’s Thumb Ranch in Tabernash and finishes at Hideaway Park in Winter Park. The course is spectator friendly as it loops back through Devil’s Thumb several times before continuing to Winter Park.
Brian Seppala has been both a competitor and coordinator for the race. He is a teacher in Denver and coaches the Devil’s Thumb Junior Nordic ski team and helped get the race started in its first year.
“As a nod to the roots of cross country skiing,” Seppala said, “[The Stagecoach] is a classic-style only race and it takes you over trails and across property that can only be accessed during this competition.” Classic, or traditional style only, is different than most races which are freestyle where competitors are allowed to skate. Racers will need a strong upper body to compete in an event like this. Other race options include a 15 km race and a 15 km tour with food stops along the course from different restaurants. “Add in a kid’s race, a post-race BBQ and beer garden, over $5,000 in prizes, and you get a perfect way to spend a day in Grand County.”
Patrick Brower has also competed the last two years and is a huge supporter of the event. “It’s not only a ski race, there’s a shorter, 15k event that can be skied as a tour, giving non-racers and recreational Nordic skiers a chance to enjoy the unique course,” he said. Possibly the most unique part of the course is the stretch that links Devil’s Thumb to downtown Winter Park; as most of it is on private land. This stretch is only open once a year for the race and winds through the old Ski Idlewild trail system.
“Here skiers can get a taste of cross country skiing the way it was in Winter Park 30 years ago,” Brower said, “I know since I skied those trails way back in the day!”
Brower has skied the race two times now. His favorite sections were the “Black Ten” at Devil’s Thumb and the “screaming decent” from the Rendezvous property to downtown Winter Park. “How often does a cross-country skier get the chance to fly downhill right into a downtown area like Winter Park? Not often, but the Stagecoach Classic makes this possible!”
From his own experience, he shares some race day tips. He stressed the importance of applying the correct amount of kick wax that will last the entire race. “For me, it’s been difficult to achieve. Both times my kick wax was completely worn off my skis with yet another seven kilometers to go. Durable, layered kick wax with a solid base wax are imperative.”
The highlights of the race are the pleasures of skiing with like-minded athletes on a challenging course that offers great views, a variety of terrain, and a chance to ski trials that are open only once a year, he said.
First place in the 30k race wins a free night stay at Devil’s Thumb and a free season pass to their trail system. Second and third place also receive season passes. Other prizes include Rossignol classic skis and HF ski wax.
The races and tour will start at 7 a.m. in the Devil’s Thumb Ranch Broad Axe Barn. Registration includes event merchandise, feed stations along the course, and food and beer in Hideaway Park. A portion of proceeds from the race will go towards the Trout Unlimited campaign to protect and preserve the endangered Fraser River. There will be shuttles running between the start and finish to make transportation easy for locals and visitors. For more information on the race and to register in advance visit http://www.playwinterpark.com/events_stagecoach_classicr.html
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Due to current public health guidance, there will not be an in-person wilderness campsite lottery for Rocky Mountain National Park this year.