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Tahoe Donner Ski-O

Date: (Sat.) Feb. 4, 2006
Location: Truckee, CA
Event Director: - 650.793.8764
Course Setter: Peter Graube
Type: Ski-O

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Event Write-Up

By Tony Pinkham

We had a stormy debut for our first event at Tahoe Donner Cross Country, but it seems that most people had a good time despite their difficulties. We also had 50 people there, which is a terrific turnout for any ski-O event, especially on a stormy day.

The difficulties started with what was forecasted as a small storm for Truckee but turned out to be a blizzard on the uppermost trails on our advanced courses — wind, snow, and ice presented significant obstacles to the people on the toughest courses where they were often exposed to the elements on bare hillsides. For many of these orienteers, they always seemed to be skiing into the wind, no matter which direction the trail went. Four to six orienteers even had their maps sucked out of their map cases and ski-O map holders. Half of them returned for fresh maps. One of them won the Blue course despite this hardship — yes, it often pays to keep going even when all seems lost.

If that wasn't enough of a problem, the Tahoe Donner map was a work in progress, and I used the wrong scale (1:10000 instead of 1:15000) when figuring out the distances and map scale, definitely underestimating the course lengths for the Green, Red, and Blue courses. We planned on having shorter courses because of the two-event format for the weekend but ended up with full-length courses at the upper end of our long-distance standards. Fortunately, the climb I calculated proved to be an overestimation because a couple of trails were not groomed, so the optimal routes changed to longer routes with less climb. The climb was still more than any climb we had before, but at least it wasn't what I originally advertised. Had I used the correct scale, not only would the courses have been shorter, but the climbs would have been minimized. Thanks to help from Bob Cooley, Neil Hunt, and Matthias Kohler, this problem was quickly found and corrected so it won't haunt us again. My many apologies to all.

What was very successful at this event were the courses designed by Trinka Gillis and vetted by Bjorn Widerstrom. Trinka designed some great routing choices for the intermediate (Orange) and advanced (Green, Red, and Blue) courses. The White course explored the one-way beginner trails in the "Home Range" trail system at the level of the main lodge — each leg with a simple solution, but with choices to be made at various trail junctions. The Orange course went half way up the hill above the lodge and offered basic routing choices to each control. The Green course offered multiple routing choices to controls half way up the hill above the lodge, and down into the Euer Valley track system. The Red course offered similar route choices three quarters of the way up the main hill. The Blue course combined the Green and Red courses.

Tahoe Donner offers 113 km of groomed trails, of which we used about half (the other half either wasn't sufficiently mapped, groomed, or didn't offer interesting route choices). A couple of trails that we hoped to use were closed because the snow levels in those areas didn't allow for grooming. Those ungroomed trails offered significant route choices that would have significantly improved the choices available on the advanced courses. We did change and complicate the trail system with the addition of 10 secondary trails that connected trails that were not ordinarily connected. The resort allows people to go off trail (and many people showed us some interesting new ideas for route choices by going off trail) but we did our best to make sure that the optimal routes were on primary (groomed) or secondary (snowshoed) trails. There were a couple of cases in which orienteers found significant optimal routes by going off trail, especially where a trail wasn't groomed.

The situation with ungroomed trails raised an interesting question about how best to map trails that are often not groomed when conditions are marginal. To the best we could figure, the use of the thick green line shown as an indistinct trail is the best mapping symbol to use. If those trails are groomed the night before the event, we can easily draw those lines as solid lines for groomed trails the morning of the event. Now that we bring a computer and printer to the events, we can even reprint the maps with changed symbols. We are open to suggestions.

For the White course, Lauren Knight placed first. Others on that course were Jennifer Heckendorn and two teams of 6-7 year olds brought by the Auburn Ski Club.

For the Orange course, Patty Clemo finished first with Christopher Hann close behind, each with a time of about 1 hour 35 minutes.

For the Green course, Blake Heckendorn, who has been named to the US Ski-O team for the M-20 class, did his second advanced ski-O course and blew away the competition (again) as though there were no storm going on at the time. His time of 1:15:44 was 41 minutes faster than anyone else on the course. Prior to this year, Blake easily dominated the Orange courses for 2+ years.

For the Red course, Steve Miller (Auburn Ski Club) and Denise Kowal (Tahoe Donner resident) dominated for men and women with times of 1:36:30 and 1:55:50. Steve won using his backcountry striding skis — it's rare that conditions take away the usual advantage enjoyed by skaters.

For the Blue course, the competition was fast and furious despite the stormy conditions. Greg Walker lost his map (sucked out of his map holder by the wind and carried 100+ yards in a matter of seconds) on the highest trail on his course. He continued another kilometer to control 10, then 3 kilometers to control 11 (this leg offered various complex route choices), all by memory. Fortunately, control 11 was just 1.5 km from the start/finish area, so he returned for a new map and continued on his course. Despite the mishap with the map, the storm, and the unexpectedly long course, he finished first with a time of 2:00:48. The second place person, Nicolas Grimmer, who's a regular skier at Tahoe Donner XC, was less than 4 minutes behind Greg. Anna Voegele finished first for women with 2:29:44.

What truly exceeded our expectations were all the people who volunteered long before the event to help do whatever needed to be done.

  1. Trinka Gillis, of course, designed the courses, set up the controls, ran the E-punch operations, and took over for me when I had to leave in the afternoon to set courses for the following event. Thanks to her coordination, everything was cleaned up after our event.
  2. Bjorn Widerstrom helped vet the courses, set controls up the day of the event, helped at registration and E-punch throughout the event, then collected our furthest controls after the event ended.
  3. Bob Cooley printed the maps on very short notice, and somehow found time to improve them with legends.
  4. Nancy Lindeman helped with pre-event publicity by passing out fliers that many of our first-time orienteers noticed at various cross-country ski resorts.
  5. Matthias Kohler also helped with the final course setup on the day of the event.
  6. Dan Dwyer and Jackie Wong handled registration through the early morning rush.
  7. Jeff Lanham ran the beginner clinics at the beginning of the event, and introduced two teams of Alpine Ski Club children to ski orienteering.
  8. Bill and Anna Voegele and Blake Heckendorn took over for me at finishes.
  9. Mikkel Conradi, Greg Walker, Nancy Lindeman, and Bill and Anna Voegele each helped pick up controls and trail flags (for secondary trails) after battling the elements on their courses.
  10. Jay Hann recorded the event with his camera — many of his photos will be added to the ski-O collection on our Web page and a few might make it to ONA.
  11. JoJo Toeppner, who manages Tahoe Donner Cross Country, offered us a generous discount for preregistered orienteers, let us use a room in the lodge for registration and E-punch operations, and made sure that as many of the trails were groomed as possible (including a special one only used for another race) in the orienteering area. She and her staff were extremely welcoming to our appreciative orienteers — I heard many compliments about the welcoming feel of the staff.
  12. Milada Senna, a colleage of mine, offered her family cabin near Royal Gorge at a generous rate for much of our staff. It was a great place to relax between events on our hectic schedule.

Many thanks to all these wonderful people and others I might have forgotten while writing this.

Looking forward, I or another mapper (or both of us) will be finishing the Tahoe Donner map this ski season so that it will be completed for the US Ski-O Champs in 2007 (the second to last event in a week of ski-O events). Given the climb required at this venue and the tightly integrated trail network on the hill above the lodge, this venue would be perfect for the Short Course Championships, but we haven't decided if we'll use it for short or long courses. If we do use it for long courses, we'll definitely take into account the significant climbs that come with this territory to make sure the winning finish times fall within specification.


Tahoe Donner Ski-O

Truckee, CA
Saturday, February 4, 2006

  Pl  Name(s)                         Time

White Course   (3.8 km, 50 m climb, 11 controls)

   1  Lauren Knight                   41:42
   2  Jennifer Heckendorn             57:33
   3  Miller, Scott, Ponkelot       1:00:52

      Carmel, Holland, Sinoff         DNF

Orange Course  (6.3 km, 135 m climb, 9 controls)

   1  Patty Clemo                   1:34:59
   2  Christopher Hann              1:35:31
   3  Jackie Wong                   1:45:31
   4  Helene Gordon, Alan Houser    2:07:15
   5  Jim Fish                      2:51:05
   6  Nancy Lindeman                2:59:09

      Harold Lischner                 DNF

Green Course   (10.4 km, 250 m climb, 9 controls)

   1  Blake Heckendorn              1:15:44
   2  Tom Jahn                      1:56:56
   3  Adolf Jochnick                1:59:59
   4  Bob Cooley                    2:05:01
   5  Patty Struve                  2:18:24
   6  Pete Olsten                   2:23:34
   7  Anne Barrington, Sandra Rosa  3:04:53

      Jeff Lanam                      DNF
      Jukka Karras                    DNF
      Jaakko Karras                   DNF

Red Course     (14.1 km, 435 m climb, 11 controls)

   1  Steve Miller                  1:36:30
   2  Denise Kowal                  1:55:50
   3  Clea Sarnquist                2:00:19
   4  Tapio Karras                  2:03:18
   5  Virginia Kantz                2:10:42
   6  Kent Ohlund                   2:10:55
   7  Bob Baylor                    2:27:23
   8  Dan Dwyer                     2:36:54

      Bill Voegele                    DNF
      Scott Drumm                     DNF

Blue Course    (20.2 km, 545 m climb, 16 controls)

   1  Greg Walker                   2:00:48
   2  Nicholas Grimmer              2:04:38
   3  Mikkel Conradi                2:10:21
   4  Matthias Kohler               2:25:47
   5  Dan Stoll-Hadayia             2:28:34
   6  Anna Voegele                  2:29:44
   7  Neil Hunt                     2:40:54
   8  Julie Raymond                 2:45:09
   9  Val Licon                     2:52:44

      Brenda Giese                    DNF
      Bret Sarnquist                  DNF


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