Posted December 31st, 2009
The ski season is finally here. By “here,” I mean that it’s winter in West Yellowstone, MT. The Green Racing Project has escaped the warmth of November in Vermont to cut the tape on the 2009/2010 cross-country ski racing season in the colder climes of Yellowstone National Park.
For almost the last decade, the North American ski racing circuit has kicked off at the Yellowstone Ski Festival over Thanksgiving week. “The Great White Circus,” as one of our team managers at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center dubbed the Festival, plays host to over 3,000 skiers from around the country who converge at the western gate of Yellowstone National Park for a week of skiing, racing, and endurance sports fanaticism at its best. The snowy trails teem with all varieties of spandex garb: the flames of Minnesotan high school teams, snow flaked college skiers, and flashy professional trade teams, not to mention plenty of “master-blasters,” the young skier’s friendly jibe for middle-aged ski racers.
In the evenings, the American Nordic world’s largest trade show takes over the conference center at the Holiday Inn—the Swixes and Rossignols of the sport get a chance to show off their newest products to consumers riding the adrenaline buzz of white powder following a long off-season of running and rollerskiing. We experienced this excitement in full. Fulfilling responsibilities to one of the team’s biggest sponsors, we took turns representing the Concept2 SkiErg demonstration table. I’ve never seen so many excited kids stand in line to test out the new double-poling machine, pull as high a wattage as they could for ten seconds, and then jump back in line to get another shot at it. We may as well have been offering free rides on the Gravitron by the looks on people’s faces.
The first of several Olympic qualification races began midway through the week. With a sprint race and two distance races, our team had three race starts in Yellowstone to test our form after a long training season. Coming from the East, it took us all a little while to adjust both to the altitude (7,000 feet) and the snow. Our gradual acclimatization showed in the results—most of the team was a bit sluggish, with the exception of an exceptional finish in the sprint race by Ida Sargent of Barton, VT. She was the third American in the women’s 1.5-kilometer classic style sprint race. Next weekend the racing scene moves north to Bozeman, and we’re all looking to improve our results. It feels good to break the ice on our short competition season and dive back into what that summer training is all about: skiing fast!
But it isn’t just easy skiing and racing for the Green Racing Project in West Yellowstone. This was the first time our rookie team has interacted with the greater skiing community, and since our program carries some controversial clout, it was interesting to gauge the reactions from our fellow skiers about “green ski racing.” In short, we’re realizing there are a lot of eyes scrutinizing our team.
While we haven’t claimed to be a purely “green team,” we’ve already been given that title among our peers, and with it comes a mix of criticism and support. As I warmed down after the sprint race mid-week, a high school girl from somewhere, Minnesota, called out to me as I skied past, “Are you on the new Green Ski Team?”
“Yea,” I answered, a bit hesitant.
“Well I don’t think you guys are all that green. I mean you flew out here. And I know you used fluorinated wax on your race skis today.”
There’s not much to say to that. She’s right on both accounts, and her accusative tone certainly caught me off guard. Don’t other skiers understand that we are trying to control the parts of our lives where we can minimize our negative impact without abandoning the sport we love? A friend of mine whom I raced against in college joked that he was going to collect evidence of the Green Racing Project’s un-green activities throughout the course of the winter and start his own website to share it. I realized at the “Great White Circus” in Yellowstone that as an environmentally focused team, we’ve put ourselves out there to be scrutinized. A lot of people are watching, and we’ve still got a long way to go to meet our goals of balancing the needs of a professional ski racing team with the environmental consequences of our sport.
Tim Reynolds grew up in Bristol, VT, and is a recent graduate of Middlebury College. Skiing, running, biking, and climbing keep him pretty busy, and he’s excited to be contributing to Vermont Sports after many years reading from the sidelines.