Sunny skies bring smiles at Round Valley Roundup | ParkRecord.com

Sunny skies bring smiles at Round Valley Roundup

Christopher Kamrani, The Park Record

What a difference a year makes.

In 2011, a whiteout lambasted the Park City area during the inaugural Round Valley Roundup cross-country ski race. The blizzard swallowed some competitors whole, and many racers participating in the 5K, 20K and 40K race had to drop out due to inclement weather.

That was last year.

On Saturday, the 2012 Rossignol Round Valley Roundup was the polar opposite of that frigid day a year ago, as close to 200 cross-country skiers crowded the trails on what may have been the warmest day of the year to date.

To Noel Carlson, researcher at the University of Utah, this year’s race couldn’t have been more different and more enjoyable than 2011. A participant in the 5K event the last two years, Carlson crossed the finish line in good spirits Saturday, and rightfully so.

"I finished dead last in the 5K last year," he said. "I had snow sticking at least six inches on the bottom of my skis. While everyone else was skiing, I was doing the snowshoe event."

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Carlson said he had open-heart surgery almost three years ago, and the Roundup event has given him a goal each year. He traditionally trains for the event on golf courses in the Salt Lake Valley.

"This year was a lot easier by many standards," he said, laughing. "This means a lot to me to do this."

And Carlson said there is no question he’ll be back for a third go in 2013.

"It’s a highlight," he said. "Maybe I’ll do the 20K next year."

Charlie Sturgis, executive director of the Mountain Trails Foundation, which created the event, said the whimsical winter season this year led to many headaches, but in the end, the race that was pushed back six weeks due to lack of snow, worked out quite well.

Sturgis said Mountain Trails had to change the route about four times in the days leading up to the race due to the warm late-winter temperatures. He said about six to eight people spent hours shoveling snow onto a 100-yard stretch of the track that he deemed "essential" Friday afternoon.

"We were fixing the course 15 minutes before the start," Sturgis said. "On the first big turn of the course, we had a foot of water on the uphill portion. I thought, ‘If the sun hits that, the whole track will wash away.’ Basically, we were able to pop the pimple and cover it up. We put a drain in across the track and moved about a foot of water out of there.

"There were some pretty cool moments. The fact we were able to pull it off was really fun."

While the event organizers may have had high stress levels, the racers spoke glowingly of the track conditions, which were some of the fastest they’d seen this ski season.

"This was way better," said Barry Makarewicz, winner of the men’s 40K race. "The first lap was super fast. The snow was just like ice: it was great and pretty easy."

Makarewicz said a strong group of skiers stayed together through the first lap, but he saw a break going into the last lap.

"I was just trying to conserve after that first lap," he said. "I could kind of feel these guys weakening a little bit; my skis were good, so I just tried to ski a hard, steady pace."

The second-place finisher in the men’s 40K race a year ago, Makarewicz said he’d had this race circled on his calendar since last year’s whiteout.

"I enjoyed this a lot more," he said. "There are five guys out here who could have won it. I had a poor race last week up at West Yellowstone, but I redeemed myself."

Park City’s Roxanne Toly also had a difficult race at last week’s West Yellowstone Rendezvous, but the 2011 champion in the women’s 40K defended her title with ease, finishing three minutes in front of the second-place finisher.

She called her race in Yellowstone "epically bad," but the prime conditions Saturday in Park City more than made up for that, she said.

"I was a little worried, though, trying to do back-to-back long races," she said.

"It was so nice just being good weather. Even though we have no snow, it seems like the last four or five races have been bad snow conditions. You ski really hard snow, then you come to this race and it’s all wet."

Toly said the Roundup was just what she was looking for as the cross-country ski season begins to wind down.

"No complaints," she said. "A little pond-skimming in the middle (of the course). That switched it up a bit."

For full results of the 2012 Rossignol Round Valley Roundup, see the scoreboard page on B-6.