This past weekend the NEMS Express rolled into the Green Mountain State (that’s Vermont) for a GS at the Middlebury Snow Bowl on Saturday and a SL at Suicide 6 on Sunday. We were a few days removed from a mid-week snowstorm which dropped about 7 inches of much needed new snow, and smack dab in the middle of a brutal cold front which brought in temps beginning with a dreaded minus sign (-) at the front of it. Needless to say folks were spending a little bit of extra time indoors this weekend. The one saving grace, besides hot chocolate and toe warmers, was the perfect blue bird sky which left the sun on full display and created some absolutely amazing views. We’re talking postcard worthy stuff folks!
Any weekend I have the chance to get out of the city and hit the slopes for some racing is exciting for me. This weekend was exciting for another reason. In all of the years I have been racing for NEMS, this was my first trip to the Snow Bowl! [Insert happy dance here.] It’s hard to imagine that I had never been there before. I had planned on attending last year but the race was canceled due to a lack of snow, so this was a weekend I had been looking forward to for well over a year. After all, everyone always talks about Middlebury and how it might be small, but its race trail, Allen, is really awesome. While I didn’t get a chance to experience a race down the full trail, I can certainly understand why people talk so passionately about it. It definitely looks like it would be an amazing GS course and I can only hope that I have the opportunity race down it one day in the future.
Saturday began with the temps hovering around -6 degrees and with everyone huddled up in the lodge trying to reassess why they still enjoy ski racing and what the right layering strategy would be. I always say it takes a special person to willfully throw themselves down a mountain on skis at high speeds in nothing but a thin layer of spandex. It takes a total badass to do it in artic temperatures. Nostril freezing temps aside it actually turned out to be an amazing day. The trees were covered in snow and frosted over which led to some really great views from the chairlift. The temps gradually warmed up to a balmy 12 degrees, oh and we did some ski racing as well. While I know there was some disappointment that we did not have a full-length GS down Allen, running a shortened three-run GS was actually a lot of fun. The joke around the group was that if you blinked you would miss your own run. It was definitely a shorter course than we are used to at around 30 seconds with a mostly tuckable top section, a couple of key gates on the pitch followed by a sprint to the finish. But as we saw at the Sunapee SL, even a short course can cause some issues. A unique aspect of this race was that the group ran the same course for the first two runs, and since there was a small field for the race and the snow held up really well, it was a good test to see if you could improve on your time having run the course already. At the end of the day and after three runs, the difference between the top two times was separated by a mere 0.03 seconds!! Congratulations to the men’s and women’s overall winners, Chris Beadon & Cinthia Audet, and thank you for everyone who made the trip up to the Snow Bowl and battled through the cold temps. To see the results from the race click here.
On Sunday everyone headed over to Suicide 6 for the annual Bunny Bertram Memorial race. Now before we get into all of the action I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t mention the real excitement that took place on Friday. To get a jump start on the competition a few NEMS racers were up at S6 doing some SL training. What they also got some practice in was how to get evacuated off a chairlift. Yikes! Kidding aside that is a situation you never want to be in, especially in the frigid temps they were fighting though. While I’m happy the paparazzi was there to capture it all, I’m happy that everyone was able to get off safely and get warmed up. Hopefully the mountain bought them a burger and a beer for their troubles! Ok, maybe two beers. Fast forward to Sunday, with the cold temps still lingering and the chairlift up and running, the NEMS racers attacked what is often referred to as one of the better SL hills on the schedule. With some great snow conditions and a couple of great courses to work with, the field made quick work of the day’s challenge producing some exciting runs, and of course a few defeats. Congratulations to the men’s and women’s overall winners on the day, Matt Dodge & Cinthia Audet, and to the winners of this year’s Bunny Bertram Memorial!!
NEMS is off next week for the holiday weekend. I hope everyone who is attending the race camp at Mt. Snow this week has a great time and picks up lots of tips along with some valuable gate time. Next up are the Eastern Regional races at Stratton! It’s going to be an amazing few days of racing with some great after parties as well. I hope to see you all up there!