The Blue Ice Wrecking Crew used a strong Saturday showing to demolish the competition at the 31st annual Peak to Valley Race on Feb. 27 and 28.
Because of low snow conditions, the sold-out race descended only to Vuarnet Road and not all the way to the valley, but it did not deter interested racers.
The Wrecking Crew sat a close second after the first day of competition with Marian Treger posting a time of three minutes, 22.46 seconds (3:22.76) and Tommy Thompson putting up a 3:43.36. On Day 2, Kim McKnight skied a 3:19.25 and team captain Dave Johnston a 3:20.75 to vault themselves into first, a full 20.18 seconds ahead of second-place NZ Racers I.
The quartet, competing in the 175-199 age category, started Saturday 0.11 seconds behind the Blackcomb Tomahawks, who were in the 150-174 category.
"I would say we overachieved, almost," Johnston said. "I was always hoping we could win our age category, but to win the whole thing was quite a surprise."
The Wrecking Crew's win ended the two-year reign of Capital Home Energy, who did not compete this year. It was also the first time since 2008 that a team from the 175-199 age division won the overall title when Mad Millies emerged victorious.
"There's, in the past, been really strong teams with ex-national team racers. Ski-cross racers have dominated a lot of the past few years and they're really tough to beat," Johnston said.
Blue Ice, named after Johnston's construction business, had a wide range of ages on the team. Johnston's employee, Treger, is 29 and he's the elder statesman at 57. Johnston felt all racers hit the hill and did what they needed to do.
"It was solid racing," Johnston said. "Nobody was spectacular and nobody made any mistakes. We were all just solid and consistent. All four of us had clean runs and that's what did it."
Johnston, who won the race twice before with Wild Willies, noted his strategy was to build the lineup to create sustainable results over the two days of racing as opposed to gunning for a huge lead on Day 1.
"I think all the top five or so teams that could have won it, but maybe the other teams had two of their best skiers going on Friday whereas we were even on both days on our four people," he said.
Johnston noted Saturday's course had fewer turns and allowed for quicker times. As well, though he didn't grow up with ski racing experience, they're skills he's garnered having competed in all but one Peak to Valley Race.
"The long course right to the bottom favours people that are really in good shape," he said. "A shorter, icier course maybe favours real racers rather than people who are just in good shape.
"The real racers rose to the top on the shorter course. It was a shame that it was shorter, but it was still very tough."
The runners-up were the NZ Racers I team of Bebe Zoricic, Rob Brudar, Kelby Halbert and MacKenzie Irwin, who finished with a 14:06.30 in the 150-174 division. The third-place overall finishers were Barry the Rooster, who had a 14:08.23 showing to win the 200-224 category.
The Blackcomb Tomahawks tumbled to finish sixth overall with a time of 14:39.75. Team members were Shannon Campbell, Francois Hebert, Nadio Hachey and Mark Crawford.
Team Apres Ski won the 149 and under division with a time of 15:10.26, placing 10th overall. The team featured Deborah Bayliss, Brianne Ormerod, Stephanie Grieser and JD McLean.
Lastly, the Wild Eastern Flyers were tops in the 225 and over division with a 15:46.19 showing. Lloyd Henderson, Geoff Gerhart, Lou Fenninger and Joy Fera made up the squad, which was 16th overall.
In terms of individual times, Campbell from the Blackcomb Tomahawks led all women on Friday with a 3:44.08 run while Ryan Oughtred of Hoopla in the 175-199 division led the men with a time of 3:17.35. On Saturday, Shiho Negishi of Guys 'N' Doll in the 150-174 division led the women with a 3:14.12 time while Marcus Waring of All Wayne's Children in the 149 and under category notched the top men's time with a 3:00.36.
Waring described Saturday's course as being a giant slalom setup, which has "not historically" aligned with his strengths as a skier. Still, he dashed to the top time.
"I was a little bit surprised," said Waring, competing at his sixth Peak to Valley. "It's nice to have a good time at the end of the day."
As part of an all-patrol team, Waring said he enjoyed the weekend and wanted to point out 76-year-old mentor Albert Van Citting's Saturday time of 4:32.40, noting it impressed him.
"It was an amazing course and great conditions," he said. "The events crew did a really good job."