Town Races: See you next year
March 11, 2011
Bill Skinner, one of Park City’s most influential alpine skiers, took hold of the microphone and addressed the crowd.
The Pig Pen Saloon at Park City Mountain Resort was chock-full of ski racers both present and past and Skinner, a wide smile tattooed across his face, gave his thanks.
"We have youth in this crowd," he joked. "That’s a good thing."
Not since the 1980s had the Town Race Series been in full swing. This year changed all that.
The fourth and final Town Race Series of the season came to a resounding end Wednesday night as the revitalized event took center stage for one last hurrah at the Pig Pen Saloon. Skinner, who is the Alpine Masters Coordinator with the United States Ski & Snowboard Association (USSA), has been an essential part of organizing community ski races in Park City for many years.
Skinner’s jovial tone took a serious turn when he addressed the crowd, saying: "I’ve never seen skiing like this. There are great skiers in the town of Park City. This is what we do."
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The Renstall Boys, Skinner’s team along with brother Bob, Chris Probert and Don Sears, finished first in the series team finale, and also finished first in the overall season standings.
As Skinner passed the microphone to the man credited with restoring the race, Jesse Hunt, the executive director of the Park City Ski Team jokingly gave his reasoning for wanting to resurrect the Town Race Series.
"I wanted another shot at Bill," Hunt said. "Twenty years later."
Hunt got his shot, but it really didn’t matter all that much in the grander scheme. The Town Race Series is back and the ski-racing community of Park City is ecstatic.
"It’s been a blast," said Abbi Lathrop, who finished second in the final women’s individual race to Heidi Voelker. "I just love how everyone comes out every week. It’s competitive, but not so much that it’s overwhelming.
"I’m totally psyched it’s back into action in Park City. When I moved here, I was shocked they didn’t have this."
Lathrop came to Park City five years ago from New Hampshire and, once she heard the series was making a comeback, she didn’t hesitate to sign up.
"I plan to do it every year," she said.
Justin Johnson remembers the days when the Town Race Series was the talk of the town. The 33-year-old Park City Ski Team coach and U.S. Ski Team alum, who was born and raised in Park City, recalls Hunt addressing the subject of bringing the races back to life.
"I was totally on board with it," Johnson said. "Everyone was just so into it in the past."
Johnson, who helped design the course, ended the season on a high note.
After finishing in second place in the first three races, he took home the first-place trophy in the men’s individual category. He said it was a long time coming.
"It’s good," Johnson said. "I needed one. It was fun to get one on the last race."
Johnson said he was a bit hesitant going into the event, wondering if it would have the legs to withstand four races.
"I just didn’t know if it would pick up steam again or not," he said. "It was way better than I thought it would be."
Johnson said this summer will be devoted to how to improve the series and how to get more participants involved to try to reach the turnout of 300 racers that used to be commonplace during a Town Race Series in the 1980s. He said adding more categories and making things even more enjoyable for racers would be great.
"Make it almost like the rec softball leagues," he said.
After 160 skiers registered for the first race, Johnson’s fears of thin crowds were laid to rest. the end of the series, 200 skiers had decided to give it their best.
"It’s been so cool to get it back in there," he said.
Lathrop said ski racing is a sport built upon its past, and as racers past and present exchanged stories, her assessment looked spot on.
"My entire family ski races," she said. "It’s a good tradition and I’m happy to be involved."