Arrived in Bozeman at 11PM (1 AM EST) and decided to stay overnight to enjoy the scenery going up the Gallatin and through Yellowstone Park the next morning. "We made a mistake," said Steve Smigiel as he looked out the motel window in Belgrade at three inches of wet snow still coming down. The ride was in a snow storm that diminished as we got to West Yellowstone. We checked into the best $40 a night room ever at the Best Western Desert Inn. Microwave, coffee maker, refrigerator, hot tub and swimming pool and each room is equipped with a waxing table and iron deceptively disguised as an ironing board, plus washing machines and dryers on each floor.
Dick Fultz and Gary Tarsha were already out skiing at check in so Steve and I hit the trails for a perimeter ski in a snow storm. New wet snow at 34F over an thin icy crust was still fast on Rex Blue. Fifteen kilometers later after Dead Dog, Rendezvous and Deja Vous and two tired pups headed back for lunch. Six thousand feet if pretty high, although Tarsha and Fultz had a day on us. An afternoon sprint up Rendezvous and down Cabin Hill made a great start to a wonderful four days.
Atomic and Rossignol were manning tents of demo skis at the trail head and were joined by Fischer, Salomon and Madshus on Tuesday. What a great way to try out those new skis, boots or poles you are thinking of buying. Get the expert recommendation on he cambers and flex that are just right for you. The Rossi team was there as well as skiers from all over the country. The other Grand Rapids Nordic Ski Team (Minnesota) was tracked by the real GRNST when we passed their bus in the ditch in Yellowstone Park. Really there are biathletes, ski teams from Sun Valley, Bridger, Michigan Tech, Trond Nystad and US Ski Teamers, Olympians, Marathon teams and just plain old skiers from all over the country. Plus there are ski Expo rep nights which this year included, Rossignol, Toko, Yoko, Atomic, Fischer, Subaru, Swix, Madshus, Torbjorn and American XC Skiers.
What is better is the skiing. This year the trails were groomed to perfection with a few small dirt spots easily avoided. We met Greg Worrel, Dick Hunt, Bob Gregg, Curt Peterson, Lorraine and Ben Lund out skiing on the trails each for the first time as dusk fell on different days. When you get tired of skiing the Rendezvous Trails you can sneak over to the River Trail, a non-groomed trail down to the Madison river. Totaling 8 miles the several loops are pretty flat and we saw about ten bald eagles along the river. A very nice break from the climbs at Rendezvous.
Although we did not stray from the camp, those seeking instructions can sign up for lessons from the countries best skiers on Tuesday through Saturday. We'll have to see what Greg Worrell has to report on them. Watch out though, he is 25 lbs lighter this year.
We recommend Bullwinkle's for lunch. Even the waitress gave sound information on the trail systems and the owner's are "Cheeseheads". The Free Wheel and Ski shop runs a coffee bar and has lunch specials as well. Ask Dick Fultz about his calzone experiences. And, of course, race headquarters at the Holiday Inn has an excellent restaurant. "Moose Drool" may have been the favorite beer. The most fit were Fultz and Tarsha (although Gary took a morning off), Smigiel, Worrell and Brumbaugh in that order. This was the best first skiing I have ever had. It is hard not to beat yourself up the skiing is that good.