The first of what organizers hope will be an annual Randonnee Rally on Whistler Mountain attracted a group of 40 backcountry skiers, eager for the opportunity to show off just how fast they could skin up and ski down our local peaks.
Representatives of backcountry gear supplier Life-Link, who sponsored the Jan. 11 contest, say the event went well.
"The race was a success," said organizer Christie Watts. "I think it was one of the best courses in our series. Plus, it was Whistlers Big Mountain Experience (which was) too much fun."
The Randonnee Rally is in its third season, and was created by Life-Link to provide a North American version of similar alpine touring events that take place in Europe, and that are currently being considered for Olympic status. The goal is for backcountry skiers to skin, traverse and ski up, down and around high alpine areas, following a course with ascents and descents.
Typically races take about two hours, but the Whistler race, which included a total elevation gain of 1,515 metres, went faster because of the hard-packed conditions.
The race course started at the Roundhouse, went up the Headwall Windrow (gain of 90 metres), down to the bottom of the T-bars (drop of 180 metres), up to the top of the T-bars (+220m); down to the top of Boomer (-155m), up to the top of Sun Bowl (+205m), down to the bottom of Burnt Stew Basin (-385m), up Piccolo via Feltchers (+300), down Flute Basin (-380m), up to the top of Flute (+370m), down Flute Basin (-370m), up to the top of Harveys (+330m) and down to the Harmony Express chair (-355m).
The recreational course followed the race course as far as the top of Sun Bowl before heading down to the bottom of Burnt Stew Trail (-395m), up to the top of Harveys (+330m), and down to the Harmony Express Chair.
In the mens racing division, the top three competitors finished almost within a minute of one another.
Gregory Hill was the first skier to cross the finish line at Harmony Express with a time of one hour, 30 minutes,15 seconds.
Hot on his heels was Jeff Banks in 1:30:25. Brendan ONeill was third in 1:31:18.
The next group of skiers finished almost 15 minutes later at the 1:45 mark. The slowest competitor in the division was 2:46:05.
The womens race went to local Nancy Johnston in 1:58:15. She was followed by Heather Paul in 2:04:06, and Polly Samules in 2:04:19.
In the recreational category, the men were led by Chris Romeskie in 1:10:19. Minot Maser was second in 1:22:18, and Neil Piller third in 1:30:09.
The Randonnee Rally series continues on Feb. 16 at Crested Butte, Montana. Other events include: The Marmot Rally Race at Alpental, Snoqualmie Pass, Washington, on Feb. 23; Stevens Pass in Washington on March 9; and the north American Championships at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming on March 22.
For more information, or complete results from the Whistler Rally visit Life-Link at www.life-link.com/race.htm