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Moose, hills and high-speed skiing at race
Former national team member calls Jackson Hole’s Moose Chase one of the most fun races he has ever skied.
By Miller N. Resor, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Date: February 20, 2013
Racers of all ages took to the rolling hills, dodging moose through forests at the base of Teton Pass to test their mettle Saturday in one of the valley’s most venerable Nordic races.
The 21st annual Moose Chase was held on the winding course at Trail Creek Nordic Center. Leif Zimmermann, 29, from Bozeman, Mont., who skied for the U.S. National Nordic team for five years, said the Moose Chase is one of the best races he has ever encountered.
“The course is awesome,” he said. “I like the way that it flows. I like being able to ski hard for a sustained amount of time. The climbs are nice, and then you get some recovery. In terms of a really fun race course it is right up there as one of the most fun I’ve ever skied.”
Racers selected among 30-kilometer, 15-k, 5-k, and 3-k courses along with a 1-k kids race. Although the race, which brought out 172 racers, is traditionally a skate-skiing race, a number of the competitors completed it on classic ski equipment.
The 15-k course started in front of the old Trail Creek ski cabin and looped through the East and Lower Fields west of the ski center before making its way up Grunt Hill and into the Woolsey Loop. Rolling over small ups and downs and through thick pine trees, the race traversed east on a route known as Outward Bound until it reached Cle’s Climb, which is quickly followed by Face Plant and then Armin’s Hill. In the shadow of Teton Pass, the course loops endlessly through Shades of Gray, Blown Colon, Suicide Hill, Olympic Loop, Black Hole and Moose Loop before skiers pass Sam the Truck and make their return trip on Homeward Bound.
Skiers competing in the 30-k event completed the loop twice.
“It’s challenging, but it is not brutal,” Zimmerman said. “Being able to be smooth on the whole course, you can make up a lot of time on all those twists and little undulations. If you are able to execute all those transitions and smoothly go from flat to uphill, it really reflects your ability as an overall skier.”
Zimmerman won the 30-k skate-skiing division with a time of 1 hour, 19 minutes and seven seconds. Barry Makarewicz, 51, finished second six minutes later. Erich Wilbrecht, 51, an Olympic biathlete who competed in Albertsville in 1992, was the first skier from the valley to cross the finish line, taking sixth with a time of 1:27:41.5.
In the women’s 30-k skate-skiing race, Stacy McCooey, 30, of Kamas, Utah, was first to cross the finish line, finishing in 1:41:49.9.
Robin McGee, 43, was the first finisher from Jackson, claiming fourth with a time of 1:46:26.3.
Adam Johnson, 37, who was representing Jackson, took first in the 30-k classic with a time of 1:47:35.8. No women competed in the women’s 30-k classic race.
Jackson resident and former two-time Triple Crown winner Spencer Morton, 30, won the men’s 15-k skate ski, while Ann Schorling, 32, of Wilson, won the women’s 15-k skate with a time of 58:55.4.
Jackson Hole High School racer Sawyer Gordon, 17, claimed the boys 5-k race in 15:36. Millie Peck, 12, who races with the Jackson Hole Ski and Snowboard Club, took top honors in the girls division with a time of 18:33.7.
Owen Klausmann, 11, won the boys 3-k skate-ski race with a time of 13:16, and Madiline Zolic, 12, took the girls division in 18:33.6.
A final, well attended, 1-k kids race capped off a good day of racing.
Despite what some U.S. Nordic Team members think, most competitors find the Moose Chase to be an extremely challenging race.
Not only is there a definite possibility of encountering moose while in an exhausted state, the terrain itself is challenging.
Face Plant, the steepest hill on the course, lived up to its name Saturday and simultaneously showed Nordic skiing to be as physically tough as any sport.
Rob Watsabaugh, 60, has ridden bucking broncos, held an edge in downhill ski races and been in his share of barroom brawls, but after being slammed into the frozen track at the bottom of Face Plant, he said there is nothing tougher than the Moose Chase.
“Bronc riding only lasts eight seconds,” he said. “And that’s if you’re good at it. The Moose Chase is as tough as it gets.”
Watsabaugh caught an edge close to the bottom of Face Plant and crashed. The impact from his fall pushed his sunglasses into his face, cutting his cheek and leaving him down and dazed on the side of the track.
“I’m not going to tell anybody I did this to my face while wearing Lycra,” he joked.
Perhaps this is why the Moose Chase is the first event of Jackson’s Triple Crown.
The Triple Crown, a term encompassing three wintertime races that together determine the King and Queen of Jackson Hole, is made up of the Moose Chase, the Town Downhill and Pole Pedal Paddle.
A Triple Crown champion will decided by combining participant’s times in the three events.
Kathleen Crowley, 44, is a three-time Triple Crown winner.
Due to injury she only did the recreational 15-k race this year.
“It’s fun and relaxed, and it’s a good way to catch up with everybody in the community,” she said. “I love the fact that they have the little kid’s race, I think that it makes it a good family event.”