*All the pictures below belong to the Thunderbolt Ski Patrol
So this weekend was the 75th anniversary of the Thunderbolt Ski Race the first time it has been run in over 50 years! The race had already been moved once due to lack of snow in February and the rains forecasted for the weekend almost canceled it again but they decided with decent coverage they would go for it.
For those who have skied the Thunderbolt you know what it's all about, for those who haven't it's basically a hiking trail that has been widened at all of the steep sections. The course drops 2,000 vertical feet in 1.4 miles and on race day it was icy, rutted and bumped.
The precip started light in the morning and intensified as the day wore on and consisted of rain, sleet, and snow with steady winds.
A video from the start line:
********* Thuderbolt Start Line Video
One of the big challenges was being able to see. Some people eventually took off their goggles because it just got so bad.
After the 3 mile climb up what they call the "Super Highway" I tried to get dry in the shelter cabin just below the summit. There was time to eat and talk to other racers about the course. Reports being sent up were that the course was really tough and that one man had broken his leg in two places. Most of the people I spoke with were former alpine racers and others were local backcountry skiers that would ski the Bolt 4-5 times a week! Some had never been down the trail and just wanted to be part of this historical event. I had only skied the trail twice, once about 5 years ago and again this January.
Dan pictured below was one of the few telemark skiers that actually made telemark turns!
So I finally got to the start line and was very excited. The countdown began and I was off. The beginning of the course was fairly tame and I just straight lined it until the big bend where the trail steepens to 35 degrees, here I tried a few tele turns and gave up opting for survival skiing, then it was back to straight lining it and very out of control. By now I was over halfway and my legs were shot. I tried a turn to scrub some speed and washed out but I felt fine, hopped up and continued down. By the last third of the race I really questioned whether or not I could avoid hitting a tree if I needed to, I wasn't sure but the trail eased and soon I saw the finish line and just let loose.
I couldn't believe how hard it was to ski non-stop for that long. Even the next day I was still hurting, all from ONE run!
It was great to share experiences with other racers who all felt the same way. Despite the rain there was this amazing excitement about the race, the history of the course, and the revival of this backcountry event. There were lots of spectators and everyone seemed to be having a great time.
Later that night at the awards banquet I got to meet 4 men who had raced the Thunderbolt in the 1940's!!! There was a nice dinner and I got to meet fellow climbers (odds are that if you talk to a tele skier they've probably rock climbed in the Gunks at least once). When they started giving out the awards for snowboarders I was shocked when my name was called to receive the silver medal (I was on tele gear). I protested but the crowd cheered for me to go get the medal. It was weird, apparently they had made an error in transferring my category on the spreadsheet. Anyway, I was just really happy to see that I had received a time of 4 min 46 sec! The winner for the Telemark division was the Ski Patrol director Dave Childs who posted an amazing time of 3 min 31 seconds!!! The best overall time was an alpine skier with 3 min 1 sec!!!!!! That's an average of 28 mph on a hardpack iced trail lined with trees, and essentially covered in moguls.
There are plans to hold this race again next year, it's a fun event and serves as a great motivator to take a trip to Adams and ski the Thunderbolt.