Hotly contested racing at Auburn Ski Club | SierraSun.com

Hotly contested racing at Auburn Ski Club

Mark Nadell
Special to the Sun
Mark Nadell / macbethgraphics.comBen Grasseschi, a Junior Nordic coach with the Auburn Ski Club, along with Jeff Schloss from the Sugar Bowl Academy organized the first-ever Summer Sprints this past Sunday.
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Not satisfied with merely skiing well into June, past the Solstice, and into the summer, Auburn Ski Club hosted the first Summer Team Sprint Nordic Race this past Sunday, July 3.

With lots of snow left on the ground, courtesy of Mother Nature and this year’s Auburn Ski Club and#8220;Glacier,and#8221; and the grooming wizardry of ASC Training Center’s Bill Clark, 30 ecstatic skiers were able to compete, on snow, in a team sprint format over the Fourth of July weekend on Donner Summit.

It is safe to say that this event is the first on-snow competition of the 2011-2012 season in the United States.

Site of the 2005 and 2009 Junior Olympics, Auburn Ski Club’s snow totals are traditionally huge, but this year’s near record-breaking totals and chilly spring weather has enabled grooming well into the summer. And the skiing has been surprisingly good and#8212; even when the nighttime temperatures haven’t dipped below 40 degrees, the snow has been setting up well and the sliding is fast for hours.

The beneficiaries of this nature’s bounty are, of course, the local Junior contingent, who continue to train hard to prepare for next season’s racing. But also enjoying the great skiing has been a group of college skiers from New England, out west training for the summer and enjoying the traditionally exceptional weather that the Sierra Nevada has to offer. Skiers from Bates, Middlebury, Williams, Vermont, New Hampshire and Bowdoin colleges have been living with local families and training with Bates Assistant Coach Martin Benes, a former Far West Nordic Junior and coach.

On Sunday, Junior coaches Ben Grasseschi from Auburn Ski Club and Jeff Schloss from the Sugar Bowl Academy organized the first-ever Summer Sprints, with participants skiing a 700-meter preliminary time-trial loop on Auburn Ski Club’s trails.

Even though it’s summer, the competition was hotly contested, with just seconds separating the finishers. Phil Tosteson (Williams College) was the fastest prelim racer, finishing in a blistering-fast 1 minute and 23 seconds. He was followed closely by a couple of Bates College skiers, Lucas Milliken (1:25) and local favorite Alex Hamilton (1:28).

In the women’s division, Far West Nordic’s Annika Taylor and#8212; soon to be a New Hampshire Wildcat and#8212; posted the fastest time of 1 minute and 42 seconds. She was followed by Caitlin Curran (University of Vermont) and Sugar Bowl Academy’s Cassidy Cichowicz.

After a brief break, skiers were organized into teams of three, with an attempt to even the teams out by skier speed. All the skiers raced three non-consecutive laps around the same course, with a fierce head-to-head competition occurring throughout the pack.

There was no and#8220;going easyand#8221; in this event, with everyone wanting bragging rights for winning the first race of the season. The day’s finale was won by a team comprised of Williams College skier Casey Jones, with two of Far West Nordic’s fastest J2 boys, Dylan Syben of North Tahoe and Sam Zabell of Sugar Bowl Academy. The final leg was hotly contested, with the winners barely eking out the victory over Bates College’s Nate Fuller, Canadian Alpine skier Dom Garand (Burke Academy) and Incline Village Junior Brandon Herhusky.

Most importantly, there was an ear-to-ear grin on every face, copious amounts of sunscreen was applied, lots of bare skin exposed to the sun’s rays, and an unique experience for all who attended this first race of the 2011-2012 season. No word has been mentioned as to whether an August race is planned, as the Auburn Ski Club organizers are keeping mum as to the life expectancy of the new and#8220;glacier.and#8221;

A gallery of photos is available at http://macbethgraphics.smugmug.com/NORDIC-RACING/Nordic-Races-2012/ASC-SUMMER-TEAM-SPRINT-2011/. Find complete race results at http://www.farwestnordic.org.