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Sean Cody finishing the Bear Valley Ski-O in 2001

Burton Creek Ski-O

Tahoe City
March 18, 2001

by Tony Pinkham, meet director

After having a lot of fun orienteering at Burton Creek State Park in BAOC's Sierra 2000 event last summer, I couldn't wait to direct a ski-O using the same map. Brenda Giese, a local orienteer and Nordic skier, was also interested. She offered to map the groomed cross-country ski trails and set courses. Below are the complete results for this event.

The trail network offered a little over 65 km of ski trails groomed for both striding and skating. A few of the trails were loops, but most were interconnected in ways that would enable us to use the full system to offer multiple routes to each control site. The hills were for the most part gentle risers, just perfect for testing the strength of skaters without forcing them to break their rhythm to herringbone up a hill. Most of the terrain was flat and open, plus the Tahoe Cross Country management had no prohibitions for going off trail, which allowed us to make extra trails as needed to change the trail configuration. With enough snow and the right temperatures, Burton Creek (known as Tahoe Cross Country in winter) offered one of the best venues for a ski orienteering event.

Greene on Green: Dan strides to the Finish epunch at the Burton Creek Ski-O, March 2001.

Planning the Courses

Getting enough snow was the major problem for 2001. The storms came very late in the end of February and early March, which meant that Brenda couldn't complete the mapping of some trails until there was enough snow to groom them. That meant that we couldn't really design the courses until a week or two before the event. Brenda was up to the challenge, and somehow finished the mapping and then worked with me to design the courses with barely enough time for us to vet them.

Our requirements for course lengths and the configuration of the trail system required that we somehow verify that participants visited the controls in the proper order. That meant that we needed to use the new electronic punching system. This would be the first California ski-O - and perhaps the first US ski-O - using the e-punch system. To make that happen, Robert Lewis, the BAOC e-punch coordinator, had to give me a quick course on using the e-punch units and software. With his help, we preprogrammed the punch units before I took them to the mountains.

Figuring that we might not get a lot of people on some e-punch courses, Brenda and I made up a set of master control cards showing the patterns for the backup manual punches just in case one of the e-punch units didn't function properly. We also used some plastic coated metal cables for securing the punch units to immovable objects so that other trail users wouldn't be tempted to remove them.

After looking at the courses and comparing them to other ski-O courses a couple of nights before the event, I found that the Blue course was too long. Brenda and I shortened the course by removing 2 km from the least interesting part of one leg. In hindsight, I should have realized that we needed to shorten the course another 3 km to keep it within the prescribed IOF time limits (95-100 minutes for a 100-point skier). The other courses seemed to be the right length given the results.

A Couple of Hitches

There were only two hitches for this event. After sending people out on the courses, I couldn't figure out how to download their course information from their e-punch sticks until I made a number of calls to Robert Lewis, who was driving somewhere in California with his cell phone. We figured out the solution to that problem not long before the first finishers began to come in.

For the unexpected problem of the year, one of the groomers groomed a special loop trail from one of the trails used by the Green course without telling anybody, including the resort management. Most of the Green course participants knew that the distance to that new trail was too short to consider taking the trail, but on skis it is difficult to be certain about that. Many skiers had to stop and figure things out. Two knew that they needed to turn left at the next junction and did so... onto a trail that took them out of their way. In one case, the person ended up being an hour overtime and barely limped back to the finish just as we were beginning to search for her. In the future, we need to make certain that the groomers know that the trails cannot be changed. If they are changed, we have to know about the changes.

The Competition

On the Blue course, there were only three competitors. Of those three, Kent Ohlund and Rafael Ruiz continued their very tight competition by finishing within 45 seconds of each other. Kent edged that competition and walked away with the first-place award plus the award for being the men's champion for the California Ski-O Cup.

On the Green course, Anna Brunzell beat Yelena Krasnov for first place, but Yelena's past performances on Green made her the women's California Ski-O Cup champion. Likewise, Eric Ramberg placed first for men, but Thorsten Graeve's past performances on Green made him the men's California Ski-O Cup champion.

On the Orange course, Abby Wolfe placed first for women and became the women's California Ski-O Cup champion, and Jay Hann placed first for the men. On the Yellow course, Johanna Merriss and Ruslan Ulanov placed first for women and men, respectively. On the White course, Vivian Lee placed first for women on her first day of cross-country skiing, and C.T. List placed first for men. Vivian went on to ski the Yellow course where her time was the second-best on the course. Beginners were few and far between for all our ski-O events this year.

Attendance was low (only 25 people), but the people who were there had a good time (except possibly the poor soul we nearly lost on the special Green course loop). Unfortunately, this event conflicted with the US Short and Long Course Champs. A number of our regular skiers went to that event. Otherwise, we might have had a healthier number of attendees.

Thank Yous

Many special thanks go to Brenda Giese for all the mapping, course setting, setup, starts and finishes, and event management functions that she performed for this event (she even housed the director and one of the top skiers at the event). Without her efforts the event would not have happened.

Many thanks also to Bob Cooley, who as always came through with maps despite my sending them to him just days before the event. Thanks also to Olivia Graeve for handling registration and the e-punch downloading throughout the event; Abby Wolfe and Thorsten Graeve for helping set up the start and get the first folks going; Rosemary Johnson for handling starts and finishes; and to our control picker-uppers (Kent Ohlund, Rafael Ruiz, Alex and Yelena Krasnov - all were lifesavers). Special thanks also to Kevin and Vallie, the managers of Tahoe Cross Country, for all the enthusiastic support offered that helped make this event so easy to manage.


Also be sure to check out the e-punch splits for the Orange, Green, and Blue courses.
BLUE                    25.2 km  490 m   12 controls 

    1        Kent Ohlund                   126:47 
    2        Rafael Ruiz                   127:32 
    3        Matthias Kohler               149:44 

GREEN                   16.0 km  260 m   9 controls

    1        Anna Brunzell                  93:51 
    2        Yelena Krasnov                111:40 
    -        Christine Shirley                DNF 
    -        Patty Clemo                       OT 

    1        Eric Ramberg                  106:27 
    2        Vadimas Masalkovas            112:14 
    3        Thorsten Graeve               114:28 
    4        Alex Krasnov                  115:13 
    5        Andrejus Masulkovas           148:46 
    6        Dan Greene                    152:32 
    7        Bob Cooley                    167:57 

ORANGE                  8.2 km  140 m   8 controls 

    1        Abby Wolfe                    101:04 

    1        Jay Hann                      102:44 
    2        David Best                    104:52 
    3        Dave Hoffman                  136:31 

YELLOW                  5.1 km   65 m   8 controls

    1        Johanna Merriss                54:05
    2        Toni Burroughs                 55:30
    3        Eglute Martisiute              62:17

  2nd course Vivian Lee                     55:00

    1        Ruslan Ulanov                  56:35

WHITE                   3.2 km   45 m   9 controls

    1        Vivian Lee                     36:30

    1        C. T. List                     34:03