TRUCKEE, Calif. — A nice sunny day it was not.
Nevertheless, 750 people registered and 609 reached the finish line of the Great Ski Race on Sunday, despite a wet mix of rain and snow that made for challenging skiing conditions.
“It was definitely kind of brutal,” said Genevieve Evans of Carnelian Bay, who finished seventh among women and 62nd overall in a time of 2 hours, 3 minutes and 43 seconds. “Definitely slow. I crashed a lot. But it was fun.”
The annual fundraising race, which begins at the Tahoe Cross Country Center in Tahoe City and ends 30 kilometers later at the Cottonwood Restaurant and Bar in Truckee, returned for the 36th year after it was canceled in 2012 due to a lack of snow. The main fundraiser for the Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue Team, it remains one of the largest cross-country races west of the Mississippi, second only the Boulder Mountain Tour in Idaho.
All race records were safe given the conditions Sunday, which varied from a wet snow at the higher elevations to a drizzly rain in Truckee, which caused many spills on the mushy snow.
Brian Gregg of Minneapolis powered through the slop to claim the overall win. He posted a time of 1 hour, 34 minutes and 43 seconds, which was more than 25 minutes off the course record of 1 hour and 7 minutes. Spencer Eusden of Soda Springs was not far behind, crossing the line in 1:35.12, while Marcus Nash of Truckee rounded out the top three in 1:35.31.
They were trailed by Reno’s Wyatt Fereday (1:36.15), Truckee’s Donatas Ereminas (1:39.32) and Truckee’s Katerina Nash, who finished first among woman and sixth overall in 1:39.49. Last year’s winner, Tav Streit, was eighth in 1:41.11.
Beth Taylor of Soda Springs was the second woman to finish and placed 15th overall in a time of 1:45.05, while Caitlin Gregg, the wife of Brian Gregg, was the third woman and 24th overall in 1:50.12. Holly Whitney (1:55.46) and Cathy Howard (1:59.00), both of Truckee, were fourth and fifth, respectively, in the women’s field.
The soggy weather did not prevent the hundreds of cross-country skiers and spectators from enjoying a festive party at the finish line, which also spilled over to the dry confines of the Cottonwood as racers poured in.
“I just like the atmosphere,” said Gus Johnson of Tahoe City, who competed in his fifth-ever Great Ski Race. “It really is a great race. And it draws a lot of fast people from out of town, so it’s kind of fun to mix it up with them.”
Johnson, who placed 27th overall in 1:54.29, made a point of entertaining the crowd with a one-footed finish before he skidded to a crashing stop.
“I knew I wasn’t having a great race, so I figured I’d finish in style,” Johnson said. “So I took off one ski and went across the finish line before wiping out, which is pretty expected at the finish line of the Great Ski Race.”
Johnson wasn’t the only one to go down in the final descent into the finish area. Many of the racers struggled to hold it together, which is typical given the tired state of their legs, but was that much worse Sunday in the slushy snow.
“I just tucked all the way through the finish line, because I’ve never done this before and didn’t know what it was like,” said John Gerstenberger of San Francisco. “And when I saw there wasn’t much room to stop I just threw it on my back in the turtle position. It worked out all right.”
Find complete results at www.farwestnordic.org. Check out a photo gallery from the race at http://macbethgraphics.smugmug.com/NORDIC-RACING/Nordic-Races-2013/Great-Ski-Race-2013/28257145_VQRrN9#!i=2391297677&k=LHKL5gG.