“You guys are so underground, you’re what bouldering wishes it was” I had to agree with StevieE, the sport of ski mountaineering racing is extremely underground in NZ. After a short existence between 2006- 2009 when I was organising a series of races the only event has been a super low key race in QT, part of the Winter Festival, that is a short skin up Coronet Peak. For some reason this race is more or less not at all promoted and I have even been told it is “really just a race for locals”?? So yes, the sport is underground, but to my delight a day or 2 before I took off to Canada I got an e-mail from Barrett at Broken River Ski Area telling me there was going to be a race and could I spread the word- could I ever! Well I tried to anyways.
Race day dawned sunny and calm which helped make up for the less than desirable snow conditions. I was thinking and with no disrespect to anyone, that I would have a fun little skin around and win the “race” (I was looking at it as more of a social occasion) pretty easy- then right before the brief a guy in a one piece suit turns up- great, I was going to have to try now. Barrett counted down and we all took off- well Chillis and the guy in the one piece lycra did. I chased and took over the lead as we started the climb up the main basin and with no skin track- it was way too firm for that- we tacked like a yacht race up to the bottom of Margo’s to the boot pack. I arrived just in front and lead up and chatted with the lycra clad man. “I have heard of you”– that is never good, “Chris, Chris Forne”. I replied saying we are even cause I had heard of Chris, he is after all a pretty big deal in adventure racing and orienteering circles, like a really big deal. This had me worried as we booted up cause I knew I was not gonna drop Chris, he is way too strong and I was already feeling like I needed to puke. Into the transition and out in less than a minute, Chris however, could not say the same, fumbling with boots, bindings and skins. Even with having to stop on the ski down due to a lack of flagging I built a good 90sec+ buffer. I held this on the short next climb and skied back to Palmer Lodge. A packed deck of people waiting for the snow to soften, aided by a lack of any finish line timer, had no idea I was winning the race as I crossed the line. Knowing this I decided it would be funny (at least to me) to pump my fists in the air and yell. This was of course was greeted with many a strange look until a lady asked if I had just won the race and then people clapped- Yes, we are underground.
Chris was about 2mins back and Tim Ensor had a blinder rounding out the podium. Huge thanks to Barrett and the Broken River crew for hosting this great little race. I really hope this event is back next winter and we can get a few more folks turning out.