This past weekend we officially kicked off the 2019 NEMS race season with two races at Mount Sunapee. The first races of the season are always some of my favorites because it means I’m finally back on snow in gates and doing what I love to do, ski racing. Let me rephrase here, I am trying to ski race. It also means that I get to see so many of my fellow racers that I haven’t spoken with or seen in many months. It’s like the first day back at school after summer vacation, but without any of the actual school stuff. Just recess!
I think it is fair to say that this wasn’t exactly the opening weekend we had all hoped for. With the recent influx of warmer temps and seemingly endless rain I am sure many of us were seeing flashbacks of last year and thinking “here we go again!” New England weather is funny like that, and the old saying “if you don’t like the weather just wait a day” was on full display this weekend. In a matter of just two days we had rain, sun, clouds, snow, and of course, wind…very high winds. Then one day later we’re right back down to freezing with a snowstorm expected mid-week. Crazy!
Saturday we kicked things off with a slalom race. The weather leading up to the race resulted in some thin cover where we would typically start so the race crew decided to use the NASTAR start house instead. Normally you would expect to hear some grumbling about the shorter course, but being the first race, the wet weather, and the first time in gates for many of the racers this season, I think just about everyone was ok with it. Now don’t let the fact that we raced a slalom race down a NASTAR trail fool you. Both courses were technical and kept things very interesting from start to finish, showcasing some great racing across the board.
On Sunday we were right back at it with a top-to-bottom Giant Slalom race down Lynx. Thankfully the temps had dropped overnight which left us with some pretty good conditions for the race. The free skiing wasn’t so good, but that’s for everyone else to deal with! At least it wasn’t raining, right? Ok, back to the race. Historically one of our larger races, attendance was unusually low this year for this race at just over 70 racers. Too bad because it was a good one! Lynx is known to be a truly awesome race trail and Sunday’s race did not disappoint. It also happens to be one of the longest GS courses of our season, which is somewhat terrifying because it is usually our first race and the first time in GS gates for most NEMS racers. I know I was questioning my current state of mind about 45 seconds into the run which only got worse when I realized I still had almost another 30 seconds remaining. I probably should have been thinking more about setting up for that final under gate. Something I need to work on before next week I suppose. Anyways, the end result for most is usually a big smile of relief followed by the customary gasping for air. NEMS might need to look into our policy on the use of supplemental oxygen for next year.
All in all it was a fun weekend and a good start to the season. I want to extend a special merci beaucoup to our Canadian friends who made the journey down this weekend and kicked some butt in the process. We’re looking forward to seeing you at Stratton in a few weeks. I also want to give a big thank you to the entire Sunapee Race crew that put on our races this weekend. It is one thing to race in cruddy weather; it is an entirely different (and worse) thing to stand around in it all day. With that, we’re on to Middlebury and Suicide 6. See ya out there!