TheThe Yellowstone Rendezvous Race is within sight on the calendar. With a bit of luck, a season’s worth of long skis, interval training, and hill climbs will pay off when the boom of the cannon signals the start of the race. For those who need to be convinced, there is still time to plan a West Yellowstone race weekend.
The Yellowstone Rendezvous Race has been a cornerstone to cross-country skiing in West Yellowstone for over three decades. The race takes place on the Rendezvous Ski Trails, located on the southern edge of this small gateway community and the trailhead is within walking distance from most lodging properties.
As the name implies, West Yellowstone sits at the western entrance to Yellowstone National Park, which is open to over-snow vehicles until March 15, 2010. Visitors are encouraged to extend their stay and truly enjoy a winter wonderland that is unlike any other place. Whether it is skiing or sight-seeing, West Yellowstone is the home base for winter fun. There is no other place in the world where you can spend one day racing on 25 kilometers of professionally groomed trails and the next day see bison grazing next to hot springs or bald eagles soaring past geysers. The skiing options in and around West Yellowstone are not limited to the Rendezvous Ski Trails. Multiple snowcoach companies offer ski tours around Old Faithful, a skier led track will take you from the western boundary of town to the Madison River just inside the Park, or a short drive will find many trailheads for those interested in a light backcountry tour of Yellowstone National Park or the Gallatin National Forest.
Not only is the location one-of-a-kind, but the Yellowstone Rendezvous Race is too. The race is a mass start event and the start line is located on the old Union Pacific railroad bed. A mass start is typically signaled with a loud noise, like a starting pistol, so even those in the back of the pack know it is time to go. At the Rendezvous Race, the history of the area plays a major role in the beginning of the race. Locals dressed as Mountain Men and Mushy, the race mascot, fire an authentic, black powder cannon to signal the start of each race distance. Smoke fills the air as hundreds of skiers descend on the Rendezvous Ski Trails on March 6th.
The Yellowstone Rendezvous Race is considered a long distance event and is part of the American Ski Marathon Series. There are six different races offered for skiers of all ages. True marathoners can enter the 50 kilometer race, which consists of two laps around the perimeter of the Rendezvous Ski Trail system. Racers can enter the 25 kilometer events under classic or freestyle technique. The 10k race is open to skiers not ready for a long race, with the 5k and 2k races geared for kids. To support racers in the 25 or 50k division, local community groups man five feed stations along the trails. The theme to the 2010 Rendezvous Race is “Bring on the Funk”. Look for loco locals dressed in tie-dyes, afro wigs, and bell bottoms. Bragging rights are on the line. Racers vote for their favorite feed station and the winners gloat for the rest of the year.
The Yellowstone Rendezvous Race is a fun, festive event in a unique location. The camaraderie at the start is evident and follows racers along the course. For most skiers, crossing the finish line is the goal. The fastest skiers will be rewarded with medals and cash prizes at the awards ceremony on Saturday evening. All racers are invited to treat themselves to the complimentary desert bar at the Holiday Inn after the race.
The Rendezvous Ski Trails are in great shape and there is no reason not to expect perfect corduroy for next weekend’s event. There is still time to sign up for the Rendezvous Race. Register before March 1 to avoid late fees and all registrations will be closed promptly at noon on Thursday, March 4. For more information or to register for the 2010 race, go to www.rendezvousrace.com. Stay in touch by becoming Rendezvous Race’s Facebook friend or email race organizers at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. End your race season with a bang at the 31st Annual Rendezvous Race.
Photo: Local business owners, Melissa Alder and Kelli Sanders, hit the trails in the 25k and 25k-classic races last year. Courtesy of Freeheel and Wheel.