By A.J. Johnson
A total of 67 athletes pinned on a race number for the first race in the Breck Ascent Series last Wednesday night at the Breckenridge Ski Resort. With the previous day’s storm having rolled through racers were treated to good snow, blue skies, calm winds and temperatures in the mid twenties for the 5:30 start. Most athletes were Summit County locals out for a good time. As Breckenridge resident and current U.S. Ski Mountaineering Champion Pete Swenson put it, “this isn’t a race, it’s getting some exercise after work.” Cost for the race was $15 if you pre-registered, or $20 for race day registration.
The three race series has a simple format, get up the mountain any way you want, but you have to ski or snowboard down. The field was comprised mostly of A.T. and telemark skiers, but there were some snowboarders, Nordic skiers, and one racer who simply put micro-spikes on his trail shoes and strapped his skate skis to his pack. The course followed the Springmeier run up to the Vista Haus on Peak 8.
To no one’s surprise, Swenson took the top spot in 18:47 followed by Greg Ruckman in 19:01 and Michael Hagen, the 12 Hours of Sunlight winner, was third at 20:27. In the women’s category, Jill Sorenson took the win in 23:53, followed by Colleen Ihnken in 25:48 and third went to Lindsey McManus in 31:00.
If you’re thinking that $20 is too much for a race that lasts half an hour or so, consider that racers were also treated to a free beer and tacos at Lucha, a Mexican joint downtown. Most racers found their way to the restaurant for the free food and beer, as well as age-group awards and a raffle.
The series came about when it was suggested to Linsey Kach, race director for the Town of Breckenridge’s Summer Trail Run Series that they try to put something on in the winter. When Kach took the idea to her boss in the Recreation Department it was given the green light. The next step was to see if the resort was open to it. When Kach spoke with Breckenridge officials about holding a series, they were immediately all for it she said.
Of course there were some logistics to be ironed out. Breckenridge Ski Patrol had to be present, there were four patrollers on the course, and the snow-grooming schedule had to be altered. When I asked Breckenridge personnel why they went through the trouble to do this for an event that obviously wasn’t going to generate revenue, the response was that they wanted to provide the local community with another outlet for getting out and on the mountain. They see the series as a grass roots event for locals and a way to build stronger community ties.
The series also ties in nicely with two other big events in Breckenridge. The last race of the series is April 7th, only three days before the newest C.O.S.M.I.C. race, The Five Peaks, run by Swenson. On April 17th Breckenridge is putting on the 17th annual Imperial Challenge, a mix of mountain biking and skinning.
Those interested in racing the final two events can go here to get more info and register.
(WildSnow guest blogger A.J. Johnson is a free-lance writer and multi-sport athlete in Highlands Ranch, Co. He is racing several endurance events this year to raise funds for the Race To Cure Blindness. For more info, go to www.enduretour.com.)