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Royal Gorge Ski-O

Date: (Sun.) Feb. 5, 2006
Location: Soda Springs, CA
Event Director: - 650.793.8764
Course Setter: Brenda Giese
Type: Ski-O

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Event Write-Up

By Tony Pinkham

Sunday February 5, 2005

Unlike the previous stormy morning at Tahoe Donner, the whole day at Royal Gorge was sunny yet well chilled to sub-freezing temperatures, which made for fast skiing conditions. Anticipating those conditions were 51 competitors, most of whom were competing both days. Thanks to the great conditions, the course times were significantly better than the day before.

Brenda Giese, the course setter, and I got little time the day before to set up controls, but we did get nearly half of them up before nightfall. The next morning, the two of us were at Royal Gorge by 8AM to finish placing the remaining controls. The controls were nearly all set by 10 AM, but there was some uncertainty about creeks running through a couple of key trails so we waited until Brenda could return and indicate which trails had to be taken off the map. One of the trail closures also forced the moving of one control for the Green and Red courses. We ended up making hand corrections to each map before each competitor started his/her race. It was frantic getting everyone started, but by about 11:20 nearly everyone was on their way, and we could release the volunteers so they could do their courses before the snow warmed and slowed much under the sun.

Brenda designed the Royal Gorge courses to be 80 percent as long as our standard courses, because the competitors had raced the day before at Tahoe Donner. The climbs were still significant given the hilly terrain at Royal Gorge, but competitors were allowed to use rope tows wherever they were found. The rope tows helped competitors conserve their strength, but they are typically slower than climbing for the faster skiers.

The 5.2-km White course offered a nice long adventure down the Little Dipper trail and then back up on the Palisade and James Joys trails. Although White courses typically don't have route choices, they do require that the competitors decide which trail to take wherever there is a trail junction. This course also offered a significant amount of climb (85 meters), but it was all on beginner trails and one of the trails offered a rope tow to the top of one hill. Jennifer Heckendorn, who placed second the day before to Lauren Knight, finished first with an impressive 49:25 to Lauren's 58:20. Lauren remains in first place overall because of her earlier results, but Jennifer is not going to make this easy for Lauren.

The 7.0-km, 135-meter Orange course took a larger tour and offered route choices to each control. Looking at RouteGadget afterwards, I could see that the competitors who input their courses used very different routes to many of the controls. The most interesting leg, which went to control 5, offered multiple routes, none of which went directly to the control. Fortunately, the trail closures, which were in this area, didn't effect any of the Orange route choices. Another interesting leg took the competitors to the top of the steep Yuba hill. Competitors had to choose between three routes with different climbs (some more steep than others) and a moderately slow rope tow. Most competitors wishing to conserve their depleted strengths opted to use the rope tow. Brendon Dreeper and Christopher Hann both had impressive times (51:08 and 52:09, respectively) with Christopher's father, Jay, and Elliot Delaye being not far behind and fighting it out (timewise) for third. Jackie Wong placed first for women with 1:12:52, and Patty Clemo placed second with 1:20:56. The Orange course was by far the most popular course, with half of our competitors doing it. Thanks to having the E-punch computer on hand, we were able to print the extra maps we needed for this course.

The 9.0-km, 270-meter Green course offered complex route selections to controls 1, 2, and 4. There were also some significant descents and climbs, including one of each on the infamous Guillotine trail, a trail where you slowly build up speed to where many skiers feel out of control before experiencing a sudden and surprising 20 meter drop to a control at the base of the hill. Tom Jahn, the original mapper for the Royal Gorge map, flew in from New Hampshire to win for men with an impressive 1:12:36. Lisa Reinke, another regular competitor, flew in from Hawaii to finish first for women with 1:20:15. Tom's friend from New Hampshire, Adolf Jochnick, finished fourth behind BAOC Mapping Coordinator, Bob Cooley, with 1:42:25, which includes over 15 minutes spent going to the E-punch download where he discovered he missed the last control — he immediately went back out to punch in and refinish the course. Tom and Adolf, both in their mid 70s, are incredible athletes who provide very impressive times each time they compete with us.

The 11.0-km, 270-meter Red course was longer than the Green course though with less climb. It also offered the impressive leg to the first control on the Green course. Unfortunately, because of the last-minute trail closures in the area around control 6, the competitors had to go around the flooded area, but they still had the same key decisions to make to find the optimal way to the next control near the top of the super steep "Plunge" on the Fast Draw black-diamond trail. The faster skiers, like Blake Heckendorn, readily went straight up the Plunge, but many opted to take the longer but easier route up the Sidewinder trail. Blake Heckendorn, who blasted the competition on the Green course the day before, promoted himself up to this course at Royal Gorge and easily beat the competition with his incredible time of 50:38 — it's easy to see why he is the BAOC junior champion and named for the US Ski-O team. Clea Sarnquist, who has easily commanded the Red course for women at previous Royal Gorge events (this is her home resort) and is another candidate for the US Ski-O team, finished first for women in 57:18. Steve Miller, who finished first on Red the day before, finished third with an impressive 58:23.

The 14.5-km, 515-meter Blue course was specially designed by Brenda Giese to explore an area not used for many years. The first control was the same as used on the Green and Red courses, and the advantage seemed to be to take Little Dipper. Nicolas Grimmer took significantly longer to get there by going down "The Guillotine", which is fast but requires more of a detour in its routing. Control 3 had a route choice at the beginning then went down the very steep descent into Sterlings Canyon, the area rarely used at our events. Leg 4 offered two routes, both with the same climb, but one with 0.3 km less distance. The shorter route, however, began with most of its climb back up the monster incline the skiers just came down. Everyone who recorded their courses on RouteGadget opted for the longer route without the steep climb in the beginning of the leg. Leg 5 offered significant differences in distance and climb but the results showed that the times were very similar. One route offered 75 meters of continuous climb, but was a full kilometer shorter than the other route, which had only 40 meters of occasional climb. Interestingly, Nicolas Grimmer who was the only one on RouteGadget to go for the longer route, had very comparable times to those of his fastest competitors. Leg 6 offered complex route choices, each of which diverted competitors away from the control in various directions, but the route up Sidewinder and Emigrant worked best. Bret Sarnquist, who has been named to the US Ski-O team and skis regularly at Royal Gorge, easily won for men with just 1:02:41 on the course. Martin Kunz and Nicolas Grimmer came in second and third, respectively. Greg Walker, who finished first the day before with an incredible performance in a blizzard, finished fourth closely behind Nicolas Grimmer. Julie Raymond, finished first for women as the only female "Amazon" competitor for the day.

Lessons learned at this event include the need for better pre-event scouting that would have alerted us to the flooded trails before the event day. Unfortunately, as sometimes happens at ski-O events, various storms conspired against our doing that, so we had to go with our memory and the scouting we did when setting the controls. Fortunately, Brenda caught the fact that both trails were out of commission, and we were able to change all the maps. An apology goes to Bjorn Widerstrom, who set aside his map while waiting for the delayed starts and somehow got an uncorrected map when he started. We adjusted his time based on his average splits for the other legs.

Also, I've found at this event, and others, that having the last control sharing control circles on the map with the finish area is a problem for many competitors. Some very significant performances were compromised by competitors missing the last control. In future events, we'll try to make sure the last control appears separately from the finish area on their maps to prevent this problem.

As with the Tahoe Donner event the day before, this event went smoothly, considering the problems we ran into with map corrections, because we had a tremendous wealth of volunteers. Brenda Giese designed the courses, set the controls and pin flags, ran the finish area, supervised the cleanup after the event, and picked up controls. Bob Cooley printed the maps as he nearly always does, this time with little time given by the organizers. Kent Ohlund ran registration and was later relieved by Harold Lischner, who stayed there for the rest of the registration time while nursing an injury from the previous day. Trinka Gillis also ran the E-punch operations most of the day because she too was out of action fighting a cold. Jeff Lanham also worked at E-punch after he finished his course, and he resolved a printing problem so we could eventually print results for all to see. Matthias Kohler very generously setup and ran starts early before starting his own course. Jim Fish was on hand to help a large crowd of people prepare for their starts while we corrected maps. Dan Stoll-Hadayia took over at the finishes after he finished his course and worked there until the event closed. Tom Jahn, Adolf Jochnick, Blake Heckendorn, Christopher Hann, and Jay Hann picked up the controls so fast that we were able to leave 90 minutes earlier than usual. Many thanks also to Royal Gorge manager Diana Estey, who always seemed to be on hand whenever we had a question, and her staff, who provided tremendous assistance whenever it was needed. Everyone at Royal Gorge was enormously helpful and left our staff with a wonderful memory of this event.

Next year, we're planning to have two days of competition at Royal Gorge during our Sierra Ski-O Week, which goes from January 27 to February 4. If all goes as planned, one day will be on the familiar Summit Station track system, while the other day will possibly be on the Van Norden Track System. We look forward to seeing everyone there again as they get their last two days of ski-O competition before the US Ski-O Champs, which follow at Tahoe Donner and Burton Creek.


Royal Gorge Ski-O

Soda Springs, CA
Sunday, February 5, 2006

  Pl  Name(s)                         Time

White Course   (5.2 km, 85 m climb, 10 controls)

   1  Jennifer Heckendorn             49:25
   2  Lauren Knight                   58:20

      Charles Mighette                DNF

Orange Course  (7.0 km, 135 m climb, 8 controls)

   1  Brendan Dreaper                 51:08
   2  Chris Hann                      52:09
   3  Jay Hann                        55:06
   4  Elliott DeLaye                  55:20
   5  David Marwood                 1:06:47
   6  Jackie Wong                   1:12:52
   7  Dave Taylor                   1:15:19
   8  Patty Clemo                   1:20:56
   9  Jeff Lanam                    1:31:11
  10  David Caeiro, Joanne Thiel    1:31:26
  11  David Shaw                    1:32:31
  12  Lauren Owens, Sarah Owens     1:34:52
  13  Helene Gordon, Alan Houser    1:42:18
  14  Sonja Struben                 1:47:55
  15  Chance & Lars Crail           1:48:58
  16  Ralph Keith                   2:13:23
  17  Nancy Lindeman                2:20:29
  18  Jim Fish                      2:26:50
  19  Seth Crail, Maile Field       2:51:07

Green Course   (9.0 km, 280 m climb, 8 controls)

   1  Tom Jahn                      1:12:36
   2  Lisa Reinke                   1:20:15
   3  Bob Cooley                    1:39:41
   4  Adolf Jochnick                1:42:25
   5  Stefan Reinke                 2:07:50

Red Course     (11.0 km, 270 m climb, 10 controls)

   1  Blake Heckendorn                50:38
   2  Clea Sarnquist                  57:18
   3  Steve Miller                    58:23
   4  Kent Ohlund                   1:03:25
   5  Bob Baylor                    1:10:51
   6  Tapio Karras                  1:12:42
   7  Abbey Grimmer                 1:12:43
   8  Bjorn Widerstrom              1:29:13
   9  Dan Dwyer                     1:29:18
  10  Scott Drumm                   1:43:13

Blue Course    (14.5 km, 515 m climb, 10 controls)

   1  Bret Sarnquist                1:02:41
   2  Martin Kunz                   1:07:32
   3  Nicolas Grimmer               1:09:19
   4  Greg Walker                   1:10:32
   5  Dan Stoll-Hadayia             1:18:38
   6  Neil Hunt                     1:22:16
   7  Matthias Kohler               1:23:32
   8  Mikkel Conradi                1:31:50
   9  Julie Raymond                 1:33:50


DNF = Did not finish (missed one or more controls)