Wickenhauser fourth local skier to qualify for U.S. skimo team
Written by Than Acuff
Wednesday, 16 January 2013
Brings Gunnison Valley tally to five skiers set for worlds
Bryan Wickenhauser now joins Stevie Kremer, Marshall Thomson, Janelle Smiley and Jari Kirkland as another local qualified for the U.S. Ski Mountaineering team headed to the World Championships in France in February.
It’s nothing new for Wickenhauser, who has been on the team three times before in his eight years of ski mountaineering (skimo) racing.
In fact, Kirkland, Smiley and Wickenhauser have all qualified before. Furthermore, the 2013 U.S. team is littered, once again, with local racers, as nearly a third of the team hails from the Gunnison Valley.
Wickenhauser missed his chance at the team at the National Championships in Jackson one week ago, so he made the trip to the final qualifier at Sunlight Mountain on Saturday, January 12. Though, he admits, he probably will not go to the World Championships this year, with one trip planned to Europe already to compete in the Trofeo Mezzalama, a prestigious skimo race in Italy.
“I showed up, being the competitor I am, and made the team,” says Wickenhauser. “I still wanted the honor of making the team again.”
Racers were met with frigid temperatures at the start with the thermometer reading -13 degrees at race time. The course started off relatively flat, relative to most courses that is, but still had plenty to offer with 5,000 vertical feet of climbing spread over 13 miles. The descents had the typical mix of groomers and challenging off-piste sections.
“The descents were pretty fun and challenging,” says Wickenhauser. “The first descent was off-piste and had pungees, willows, tall aspens and terrain traps. There were a lot of casualties.”
The race leaders, including Thomson, were well off the front and were previously qualified for the team so Wickenhauser found himself in eighth place and in a tight battle for the last remaining spot on the team with Scott Simmons.
“Scott and I were tip to tail and about 10 meters from the top of the last climb—I put in a final surge to build a five-second gap,” explains Wickenhauser. “I knew I could hold him off on the downhill.”
Wickenhauser passed one more racer on the final descent to place sixth overall and take the final U.S. team spot.
Thomson had the top finish among Gunnison Valley racers at Sunlight, finishing in second place less than a minute behind the U.S. national champion.
The Gunnison Valley contingent will now turn their attention to their hometown hill, as the next big race on the skimo circuit is right here in Crested Butte on Saturday, January 26.
“We will have a packed house,” says Wickenhauser. “Hopefully there’s no cows on the skimo course at Crested Butte.”
While talk of including the Guides Ridge in the course again is under way, race organizers and resort officials will meet on Saturday, January 19 to make the final course decision.