Mathias Boudreau-Golfman (Bates) skiing his way to 15th place in the men's freestyle (image courtesy of flyingpointroad.com).
My boots sunk into a slushy puddle as I got out of the van at Black Mountain, ready for the first Carnival race of the season. Hosted by Bates College, the venue pulled together an impressive 2.5 km loop considering the warm temperatures and recent rainfall.
The course entirely avoided the usual stadium, and instead it stuck to the woods. Racers reached the highest point on the loop quickly after the start, followed by a long flowing downhill into a treacherous hairpin turn. To finish out the lap, skiers headed back up to the top on a mushy, gradual climb. It was foggy and raining, and after one lap of the course I was soaked through.
The UVM men return from last season with a strong opening performance. Topping the podium today was Ben Ogden, a crowd favorite who recently returned from racing the Tour de Ski. Despite his high aspirations, Ben is humble. “I always love racing the Carnivals,” he told me after the race. “It’s been a long time since I’ve raced like that. It was soft, and kinda bumpy and slushy, but it’s good old fashioned New England skiing, so you can’t complain!” His teammate Jacob Nystedt (2nd) was only about five seconds behind him, with Bjorn Westervelt coming in 8th to round out the win.
Westervelt racing for UVM. (image courtesy of flyingpointroad.com)
Dartmouth squeezed into second place overall, with strong performances from Luke Allan (3rd), freshman Jack Lange (5th), and Wally Magill (14th).
Jack Christner, a sophomore from Middlebury who placed 6th in today’s race, is excited about what the Middlebury men’s team has in store. Placing 3rd to Dartmouth by only 4 points, their team put 3 skiers in the top 15. Jack said he had a lot of fun despite the conditions. “It’s a tough course because there’s not a lot of room to hide. There are no big downhills to tuck on so you just have to work hard the whole time.” When asked about the additional lap the 10 km race will bring, Christner laughed and gave me a grin. We can handle it, he told me. “We’ll just have to work a little harder tomorrow.”
Christner racing through the Wintry Mix (image courtesy of flyingpointroad.com)
Many of the men I talked to were excited about the shorter distance as a new challenge. Despite the sloppy conditions, Silas Brown, a junior at Bowdoin, enjoyed the race and is glad there will be another one soon so he can really “lock in the distance.” Keelan Durham, a sophomore from Williams, echoes the sentiment. He felt like he could “really go for it the whole time,” and that “this race made me excited for the rest of the season.” A life-long Vermonter, Durham was unbothered by the weather. “It’s pretty gross, but this is where ski racing was born,” he told me, shrugging.
The University of New Hampshire skied to a strong win today, with sophomore Jasmine Lyons topping the podium. “It was a hard race with hard conditions,” she told me, “But it ended up okay. The coaches gave us great skis and it was a really good day for the whole team.” Despite her dominance over the field, Lyons doesn’t brag. Her favorite part of the day? “Seeing all my teammates do really well,” she told me with a big smile. “Seeing the results and seeing a lot of UNH up there, that was huge.” Lyon’s teammate Hattie Barker, a first-year, placed 4th, along with Lea Stabeak Wenaas (6th) to claim the win.
Lyons with her "15 km Classic" medal (image courtesy of flyingpointroad.com)
Colby women skied strong races today, taking second place in a fast field. Juniors Gretta Scholz (7th) and Rose Clayton (8th) led the pack
of Mules, with first-year Natalie O’Brien following in 13th. The depth of their team today allowed Colby to come out on top in the 3-way tie in points with Dartmouth and UVM. Scholz and Clayton both described the race as both hard and fun. By the end of the race, Clayton “didn’t have much left to give. I think it’s all out there at this point,” she said.
Clayton racing for Colby (image courtesy of flyingpointroad.com)
The racing scene this season will be dominated by fast young skiers, exemplified by first-years Ava Thurston (Dartmouth, 2nd), Shea Brams (Middlebury, 3rd), and Hattie Barker (UNH, 4th). Thurston said that she “loves the atmosphere of the Carnivals” and is “super hyped” for the rest of the season. Brams said she was “pretty nervous” for her first Carnival, but the team atmosphere at Middlebury helped her to succeed. In a race that Annie McColgan (UVM) described as “a little wet and wild,” the weather didn’t seem to bother these women too much. “I’m from Massachusetts,” Brams shrugged, “and the snow and skiing is always like that. It kinda felt like home.”
McColgan racing for UVM (image courtesy of flyingpointroad.com)
Everyone was excited to see their friends and get back into the swing of things this weekend. McColgan and Scholz tell me they have raced against each other for six years.
“We’re for-lifers!” McColgan says exuberantly. The friendships between EISA schools and the loving atmosphere at the Carnival races exemplifies the close-knit community that Nordic Skiing creates. After the first race, friends and families can’t wait to come back tomorrow and do it all over again.