Town Race Series draws skiers of all levels
The sounds of skiers carving their way through the slush and ice could be heard at the bottom of the Eagle Race Arena course at Park City Mountain on Monday afternoon.
With a fresh layer of snow covering the icy trail and sun beating down, the racers in the Town Race Series had a lot to think about as they made their way toward the finish line. Whether someone was a former U.S. Ski Team member or a first-time racer didn’t matter — conditions were difficult for everyone.
"The course is a little rough out there tonight, but it’s still a lot of fun just bashing down through it," Park City Ski Team Director Jesse Hunt said after his only run of the night. "It was a little soft early, but now that the sun’s gone down, it’s gotten a little harder."
Libby Ludlow, one of the aforementioned former U.S. Ski Team members, said the slushy conditions challenge her and the other former professionals who are used to firmer tracks.
"Today was really challenging because it’s icy underneath but sugary on top," she said. "It’s kind of breaking down. But this is the first day it’s been like this. The rest of the time, it’s been really good."
The slushiness may have given novice racers a bit of an advantage, Ludlow said. Though there are several different levels of competition at the Town Race Series, which has been held for each of the past five years, it’s not uncommon for former pros and amateur racers to navigate the red and blue courses side-by-side.
"Racers prefer firm snow," Ludlow said. "We gain confidence when it’s firm because we know there aren’t going to be any big holes or ruts. Less experienced skiers probably get intimidated by ice and would prefer it to be softer."
Though Ludlow set the tone for the women, completing her two runs in 57.44 seconds, and John Buchar tallied a time of 54.32 seconds for the men, Hunt is quick to point out that there are other categories for less-experienced racers to enjoy.
"We have a lot of categories for awards," he said. "It goes right down to beginners and novices, so we’re trying to get more of them involved. We’re filling all the categories now, which is cool. We’ve got a more diverse group than we had in the first years, too."
Buchar and Ludlow competed in the men’s and women’s Double Black Diamond categories, but times in the Bronze categories were more attainable for beginners. In the men’s Bronze category, times ranged from 1:07.30 to 1:51.16. In the women’s Bronze category, times ranged between 1:25.67 and 1:54.06.
With awards and festivities taking place at Corner Store following the race, camaraderie is a big part of what draws skiers to the event.
"Mostly, for me, it’s social," Ludlow said. "It’s really fun to connect with the ski community and my friends and hang out at the bar afterward."
And, the 2006 Olympian added, it’s always nice to recapture the feeling of racing when she can.
"It’s fun and gratifying to get back in the gates and go fast," she said. "It’s a little bit like riding a bike — the muscle memory comes back — but at the same time, my body doesn’t do what it used to do. But it’s still really fun and I love it."
Ludlow said she’ll be coming back to the Town Race events as long as she’s healthy.
"In a ski town, to have the privilege to go out and race and have people set a course for you and do it for fun is really special," she said. "I also maintain it’s probably the most competitive town series in the entire country because there are so many ex-U.S. Ski Team guys and ex-collegiate athletes who are always out here. It’s pretty fun."
With one more race on this year’s slate, Hunt encourages skiers of all levels to come enjoy the atmosphere and the snow.
"It’s good fun out on the slopes and it’s good fun afterward," he said. "It’s definitely worth coming out."
The final Town Race of the season will be held on Monday, March 21, from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Eagle Race Arena at PCMR. The entry fee is $20 for an individual or $75 for a team of four. For more information, visit http://www.parkcityskiteam.org .
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