It’s the middle of the randonee racing season in North America and Team Crested Butte has been training hard and competing in the COSMIC Race Series events, including the North American Ski Mountaineering Championships at their home mountain, Crested Butte Mountain Resort. In Episode 2, Jari Kirkland, Jon Brown and Brian Smith of Team Crested Butte battle place in the top ten in a competition field stacked with the fastest randonee racers in North America.
Day one was a fast and furious sprint race that lasted just over four minutes for the men and six for the women. While the race was short, the day was extraordinarily frigid and the challenges were plenty. Cold hands and issues with skins were added obstacles to the already difficult course.
The second day was a traditional ski mountaineering race that started off with a skin up the mountain. The race involved scrambling over rocks, skinning along ridge lines, and ascending and descending 5000 vertical feet. The course was challenging and unique in that it climbed from the base and topped out on a very technical knife ridge called the “Guides Ridge.” The Crested Butte ski patrol fixed 1000 feet of rope to the ridge which the athletes used as a “Via Ferrata” system for safety and ascending along the ridge. Once the athletes summited Mount Crested Butte, at 12,162 feet, they had to complete two circuits by the North Face before their final descent to the base area.
The North American Ski Mountaineering Championships were an international affair. Canadian and Italian randonee racers represented some of the top athletes at the event. Manfred Reicheggar and Lorenzo Holzknecht, who are both members of Team SCARPA/ Italian National Team, put in the fastest times for the weekend. “The Italians got away before we event got to the rope section,” said Team Crested Butte member, Brian Smith. They were not classified in the results, since it was the ‘North American Championships’, but there was not mistaking that they were the fastest racers on the mountain that day.