When I read "Please be advised that your 'rock' skis will be the order of the day. McKaig's quote is, 'Yea, and even those may be too good!', I knew I had to do the 30th Anniversary White Pine Stampede this year, if only for the adventure.
Because of poor snow conditions, the race did not follow it's normal route - it followed the snow. Instead of ending at Shanty Creek ("The Summit"), the 50K race ended at Schuss Mountain along with the 10K and 20K events. And the 50K was shortened to about 33K.
The start of the 50K
(Photo by Pami Goodman)
All skiers raced a 10K trail to Schuss Mountain. The 10-kers forked right to the finish while the 20 and 33K racers headed left up a hill toward a 10K loop around Poets Loop. At the end of the loop, the 20K racers turned left to the finish while the 33K skiers headed back up the same hill for a second lap around Poets Loop before finishing.
I'm sure all the 33K skiers enjoyed that long one-kilometer climb on the second loop just as much as they did on the first...
Lexanne Creitz skied the 50K Freestyle with one ski pole because of a previously injured hand. Lexanne finished 2nd in her age class.
If you've never done the White Pine Stampede, The start area is fantastic. Registration is in the Mancelona High School, with plenty of tables and seating to organize your gear. Walk a couple hundred feet out the back door and you're standing on the start line.
The start area had good snow cover. A hundred yards after the start, the course turned right and the snow degraded somewhat, with many weeds showing through. At the first road crossing, the snow and grooming became hard and fast.
I used a mis-matched pair of rock skis: a single Morotto Step Skate ski from the 90's (it's mate died last year) and a 1987 Landsem SSP. Although I had a full pair of Landsems, I thought the Morotto might be a little better on the hard pack, so used it with one Landsem.
I was wrong - both the Landsem and Morotto were squirrelly on the hard pack. Every time I tried to push off, the edge would release early and the ski would slip sideways.
Now that's an interesting ski pole in Karen Stanely's left hand!
Karen finished 3rd in her age class in the 50K Classic.
The snow was good enough during the first 10K that I was thinking I should have used by good skis. Yes, there were a few brown spots, but nothing that couldn't be avoided with a little careful skiing.
I was really wishing for my good skis when we hit a long set of rolling whoop-de-dos hills about 7K into the race. They were icy and rough, and it was hang on for dear life on the descents! A good set of tracks to the right on some of the downs helped make the descents easier.
50K third-place finisher Steve Kuhl recounted how he nearly bought the farm on one of the whoop-de-dos. He popped out from the draft of another skier to make a pass, only to see a man-eating hole directly in front of him. He barely had time to make a precarious move to the left, just clearing the hole and certain disaster!
Poets Loop - Twice!
Once at Schuss Mountain and on the lap loop, snow conditions in certain sections of the course degraded greatly - but mostly on uphills and flats, not the downhills. Past one road crossing, we had to climb a steep hill though some pine trees. The snow through the pines was very thin and narrow - and impossible to skate without go directly into the pine needle floor. It turned into a herringbone section for skaters.
Several corners had to be carefully maneuvered through to avoid dirt. Another uphill required careful edging to keep from going through to the dirt. On the second lap, I barely edge at all - I went for quick but short skates and didn't catch my edges too often. A third uphill was mostly dirt on one half. I doublepoled that uphill.
Marginal snow is a few places. This section is on the way into the finish.
The return from the Poets Loops took the Tamarack Trail. The downhill on the Tamarack was in rough shape because of rogue snowmobiles. There was a track on the right that was fast and in fairly good condition. The best line was to stay in the track through the downhill, doublepole in the track on the following flat, then ski on the right bank around the water filled holes in the middle of the trail. The course then hung a left into a bumpy, uneven section where it was impossible to maintain any rhythm...
...And then we were back on the Schuss golf course where the skiing was smooth, the grooming phenomenal, and the snow cover great - ready to hit all those bad spots again on the second lap around the loop.
Retro Classic skier Rick Neier - vintage clothes and skis!
All these bad sections were relatively short; snow cover was actually pretty good for the vast majority of the course.
The hard pack and icy snow that we experienced on the first lap softened up for the second lap - partly because of warming temperatures, partly from all the skiers crunching the snow under their skis. I had a much better time getting an edge on the second lap with my soft-cambered skis.
After the second loop, we headed across a road to the finish. The trail though the trees had minimal snow, but once out on the golf course near the Schuss Nordic Center, the snow and grooming were great all the way to the finish.
Road Crossings and Volunteers
I don't think I've ever seen better road crossing in any race I've been in. Solid snow covering, excellent coverage over tire tracks, skate-able - great job volunteers! Many volunteers were making a party out of their road crossing, some with noise makers, all cheering the skiers on. Thanks to Jack McKaig and all the volunteers who pulled off this great event!
Ryan Halstead finishes the 20K Freestyle, 1st in his age class and 2nd overall.
The finish - and much of the rest of the course - had plenty of snow.