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Woolsey Classic opens Nordic ski season
Valley residents dominate annual race honoring legendary Olympic skier.
By Turner Resor, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Date: January 2, 2013
For some, last Saturday’s Betty Woolsey Classic Nordic race was their first competitive Nordic event ever; for others, it was an opportunity to smooth out any preseason wrinkles and test their strength in the valley’s first Nordic race of the season.
The classic was held at Trail Creek Ranch, which was purchased by Betty Woolsey in 1942 after she discovered the great powder skiing on Teton Pass. The pass rises above the land. Woolsey operated Trail Creek as a dude ranch until her death in 1997. Currently preserved through a conservation easement, the property now provides an outstanding network of ski trails for Nordic enthusiasts.
Woolsey was an avid mountain climber and the captain of the first Olympic women’s ski team, one of a handful of legendary individualistic women who helped define the early days in Jackson Hole.
Woolsey’s great love for the outdoors and skiing were part of a spirit that was alive and well this past weekend as racers, family and other members of the Nordic community gathered at Trail Creek on a crisp, clear morning. The conditions were perfect for classic skiing. Recent snowfalls provided the coverage necessary for a classic Nordic track, and prevailing cold temperatures created a fast surface for racers to glide across.
Racers were given the choice of 3-kilometer, 5-k and 10-k events. However, racers from the ski club were encouraged to race the courses appropriate for their skill levels.
“The racers have a choice as to which race they want to do, but as coaches we tell them what they should do,” said a smiling Alison Sehnert, head coach and director of the Jackson Hole Ski Club’s Intermountain Nordic Team.
At 10 a.m. all the racers left the starting line as one, gradually spreading out into the picturesque ranchlands and forested hills of the Trail Creek Nordic center.
For the assembled crowd of family, friends and coaches waiting at the finish line, the first to reappear were the 3-k racers led by 13-year-old valley resident Paul Bredal, who finished the course with a time of 10 minutes and 11.09 seconds.
The 5-k racers followed, with sophomore Reily Gibson, of the Jackson Hole Ski Club’s Intermountain Nordic team, edging out her fellow competitors in 10:19.10.
Freshman Bjorn Schou, also an Intermountain racer, was second across the line in the 5-k, winning first place for the boys with a time of 10:19.48. Happy with this early-season performance, Schou described his goals for the season.
“The race set the stage for the year, and I hope to build off of it for the races to come,” said Schou.
The 10-k race, contested by the most experienced racers in the pack, held its share of drama. Prodigal skier-son Johnny Springer, back home for the holidays from the University of New Hampshire, took first prize among a field of friends, familiar rivals and former coaches, finishing the course with a time of 10:33.33.
In a sport where tactics rely as much on camaraderie as they do on competition, Springer led the opening first few kilometers but then ceded that responsibility to his former Nordic coach, Jon Filardo, who led the group for most of the race’s middle section.
Approaching the course’s final leg, which meanders through the ranch’s sloped meadows, Springer made his final push, regained the lead and took the victory.
“Today I wanted to make sure I didn’t go out too hard,” Springer said, reflecting on his race strategy, “I was worried about Filardo, and I knew that those fields were going to be hard.”
Like Schou, Springer saw the day’s event as an opportunity to prepare himself for upcoming races. Springer was looking ahead to the U.S. Nationals, which took place in Park City, Utah, at Soldier’s Hollow on Monday.
Attendance was not limited to the Jackson Hole Ski Club and other community skiers.
Fifteen-year-old Lily Koffman, now in her third year as a Nordic skier, was visiting the valley with her family from Orono, Maine, when she saw the notice for the race in the paper and decided it would be fun to participate.
“We saw the announcement in the paper, and it looked like a citizen’s race,” said Koffman’s mother. “The Nordic community here is amazing.”
The younger Koffman was all smiles after finishing the race.