It was another successful year for the Stowe Derby. Some 793 racers took on the challenge of a 2,602′ descent over 12.5 miles on cross country skis. That may not sound bad until you look at the course profile and realize that nearly 2,000 of those vertical feet are descended in the first 3 miles as skiers race down the Toll Road on Stowe Mountain Resort.
But I get ahead of myself. Before the insanity begins, the short course competitors start on the Stowe Recreation Path. The mass starts with long skinny skis on your feet is a different kind of chaos but most everyone starts with a smile and the competitors eventually string out into a long line marching towards the finish.
It’s pretty easy to tell who’s in this race as a competitor
and who’s just out to have a good day on snow with a few hundred friends.
This little guy’s only 5 years old and he’s already competed in more Stowe Derbys than I have.
Back at the top, I usually start to get settled as the racers are warming up. A half dozen racers usually ski down two or three turns to get a feel for the snow and the course and then turn around to hike their way back up to the start. When the ski patrol comes through to sweep the course, it’s time for the chaos to begin.
The first racers usually clean the upper corners well. Their legs are fresh and usually they’re experienced enough on skis to manage the hill and loose snow.
It doesn’t take long before the trail claims its first pieces of gear.
and provides us with some spectacular falls.
I may be wrong, but I think you’re missing something, #143. Nice job staying on your feet, though!
When you watch a few hundred skiers come around the same corner, you start to get a feel for the technique or line that contributes to an explosive fall. Sometimes you get surprised, though. #179 looked like he was headed for disaster and then finished his turn with perfect form. I hope the rest of your race went well!
Sometimes, you can’t help but laugh at some of the falls. I’d feel bad except for the fact that most of the racers laugh as they’re going down as well.
After a crash, they pop back up like kids and skate back into the thick of the race. With 5 people starting every 30 seconds, you don’t have long to collect yourself before getting run over!
In past years, I’ve seen people on heavy telemark gear, full-on alpine touring bindings and snowlerblades, but this was the first year that I saw someone on a snowboard. Well, kind of; last year three or four snowboarders popped out of the woods and onto the race course oblivious to the fact that there was a race going on. At first I thought that’s what happened to this guy until it registered that he had cross-country ski poles in his hand. Tawny said she saw him go by at her location, so he made it the whole 12.5 miles on a splitboard. That’s some dedication.
About 1k from the finish, it’s a much more conventional cross-country race.
Well, except for those people that ski by with broken gear on their back. Way to keep Vermont green, #3! (And it’s not even Green-Up Day.)
I’m not sure where Gumby started – you’d think I would remember the big green guy passing me at the start…
As if one run down the mountain wasn’t crazy enough, the Stowe Derby has heats for Freestyle and Classical styles. In between runs, they run a cat down the trail and groom it flat. With a modern, shaped alpine ski, it’s easy to lay down railroad tracks on this easy slope.
but I can’t imagine doing it on skinny skis!
This doesn’t look good! Believe it or not, he pulls it off and continues past as if he did this on purpose.
This is my favorite expression of the day.
Again at the bottom, most people are all smiles as they’re approaching the finish. Dirk is no exception.
I checked in with Tawny before moving to the finish line. She was hard at work at the blind corner, as usual.
As racers reach the finish line, they have to cross one last bridge and round a corner to a cheering crowd.
It’s not uncommon for people to fall within feet of the finish line. Sometimes it’s a sprint for the finish gone wrong, other times it’s plain old fatigue.
I hear this was #795’s first Stowe Derby. I hope you’ll be back again to do it next year!
All of these photos and more will be available for purchase on skipix.com soon.
Congratulations to all of the competitors and a big thank you to the Mount Mansfield Ski Club and all of the volunteers, sponsors, and other organizations for putting on another great race.
If you’ve read this far and you’re one of the racers above that I’ve featured crashing, send me an email with your bib number. I’ve got something for you.