juliette-oldfield

Juliette Oldfield won the women's open division in under 31 minutes.

Why in the world would you race uphill when you could ride the chair?

That's the question I got on the chairlift as I rode up to get a few practice runs on tele skis before the 2013 Ram's Head Randonee at Mt. Hood Meadows. I wasn't quite sure how to answer. It's probably one of those "if you have to ask, you'll never know" deals. I love to go fast and I love to compete, and I love the idea of starting up a new winter sport on Mount Hood.

I was totally unprepared for an uphill/downhill race. I hadn't made telemark turns or skinned up to earn my turns in years. But I was stoked. I'm never prepared for the triathlons I do either, and they always end up being a blast. Once you get past the whole getting-kicked-in-the-head-while-flailing-in-freezing-cold-water stage anyhow.

Plus I never got to compete in downhill racing when I was kid, and I always wanted to. Here was my big chance, sort of. My plan was to rip down Stadium in a free-heel, skinny-skis tuck to the finish line. Just point 'em down and hold on for dear life. That was the plan - for the last 30 seconds of the race. To earn that I would have to climb up, ski down, climb up again, ski down again and then climb up one more time.

Randonee up-and-down races are popular in Europe, and there is a whole world of specialized gear for competitors. But here in Oregon the sport is still fairly unknown. The Ram's Head Randonee at Meadows in April 2013 was the first race of its kind at Meadows, and it came into existence only after much prodding and promotion from Guy Trombley and the backcountry experts who work at the Mountain Shop in Portland. They were at the base of Meadows with gear packages and skins ready to go for anyone interested in giving the sport a try. Portland Mountain Rescue was there too, along with the Northwest Avalanche Center. Anyone who is into backcountry skiing on Mount Hood is aware of the importance of those organizations.

It was a pretty motley crew gathered at the start line: Nordic and Alpine skiers on a variety of boards, snowboarders in boots, telemarkers with skins, skate skiers without skins, and one lunatic whose plan was to sprint up and down in sneakers and shorts while carrying a hockey stick.

I opted to climb without skins for the first section, to make it easier to drop into the first downhill. That was exhausting, but it worked. I was near the front of the pack. Then came the second climb, up Stadium in slushy snow, past the steep rocks under the chair. I tried it without skins, then with skins, then took my skis off and booted up while climbers in better shape pounded past. The downhill shot from there was fun, but it ended way too soon. And then you had to climb again.

By this point the top competitor, a beast of a biathlete named Sam Cordell, was already finished in an insanely fast 22:06:61. So had the other top athletes. The rest of us were sweating it out in the sun, trudging up the slush for that final glorious pitch. I was breathing so hard when I reached the top that I could barely stand up to pull off my skins.

But there it was in front of me: a straight shot down a wide-open slope with a pretty good pitch to it. Junior racers run slalom on Stadium and they rip it pretty fast. Fortunately, the only gates I had to worry about were the ones at the finish line. I got into my tuck and held on for dear life. My one telemark turn was at the finish line.

After the race the Mountain Shop and Meadows hosted a nice gathering on the sun deck. The barbecue and beer hit the spot, and they gave away some nice fat powder skis, alpine touring bindings and other stuff. But the best thing was hanging out on the deck with a crew of people who love being on the mountain and don't mind putting in a little extra effort to figure out a new way to enjoy it.

Here's a shot of Jen Trude of sponsor Everbody's Brewing and Meadows Nordic Race Director Dale Peters tossing out gifts to competitors on the deck:

jen-trude-every

Here are the full results from the 2013 Ram's Head Randonee:

CLASS : Junior
Pl  Bib  Class Team    Name                    Result
1   17   Junio       Ethan Grayum       15:11.11 (1)
                                                                
CLASS : Junior Mom
Pl  Bib  Class Team    Name                      Result
1   120  Junio       Linette Grayum     15:22.11 (1)
                                                                            
CLASS : Men's Masters (50 & Older)
Pl  Bib  Class Team    Name                      Result
1   141  Men's       Dieter Hoffmann    32:36.22 (1)
2   146  Men's       Guy Trombley       33:34.35 (2)
3   10   Men's       James Lamb           38:45.46 (3)
4   110  Men's       Richard Rizk          1:11:40 (4)
5   128  Men's       Don Skei                 1:38:14 (5)
6   92   Men's       Vik Doleis                2:11:19 (6)
7   130  Men's       Paul Mayhew               DNF                              

CLASS : Men's Open
Pl  Bib  Class Team    Name                      Result
1   134  Men's       Sam Cordell           22:06.61 (1)
2   142  Men's       Paul Klein              24:37.77 (2)
3   80   Men's       Ryan Dubina             25:35.60 (3)
4   122  Men's       Patrick McCormick  26:33.11 (4)
5   7    Men's       Mike Schuller           28:45.46 (5)
6   97   Men's       Luis Valls                   29:15.61 (6)
7   91   Men's       Adam Schumaker     29:57.66 (7)
8   137  Men's       Alex Macdonald     30:17.59 (8)
9   143  Men's       Gabe Grayum         30:21.25 (9)
10  139  Men's       Pierce Hodges       30:49.62 (10)
11  87   Men's       Dave Clarke            30:50.22 (11)
12  96   Men's       Mark Morford        31:34.16 (12)
13  125  Men's       Evan Chenoweth     31:52.21 (13)
14  144  Men's       John Loseth          32:21.20 (14)
15  88   Men's       Rocky Henderson    32:58.96 (15)
16  81   Men's       Wes Wenzel            33:28.22 (16)
17  135  Men's       Brett Cournoyer    33:47.85 (17)
18  5    Men's       Paul Cardosi           35:00.34 (18)
19  136  Men's       Ben Jacklet           35:48.89 (19)
20  113  Men's       Michael Anderson  37:38.39 (20)
21  140  Men's       David Novak           38:30.42 (21)
22  145  Men's       Paul MacCammond  39:01.24 (22)
23  149  Men's       Wei Chiang               44:53.43 (23)
24  8    Men's       RommelDeLeon        1:12:19 (24)
25  6    Men's       Bruce Querbach         2:05:28 (25)

CLASS : Women's Masters (50 & Older)
Pl  Bib  Class Team    Name                            Result
1   21   Women       Connie Macomber    34:56.15 (1)
2   131  Women       Violet Anderson      39:33.24 (2)
3   129  Women       Katie Foehl               1:01:50 (3)
4   127  Women       Linda Williams        1:03:26 (4)
5   133  Women       Laura Whitehorn     1:15:22 (5)

CLASS : Women's Open
Pl  Bib  Class Team        Name                    Result
1   138  Women       Juliette Oldfield    30:59.59 (1)
2   111  Women       Chelsey Brown      34:13.76 (2)
3   13   Women       Kirsten Isakson     36:40.74 (3)
4   115  Women       Laurel Manville    38:02.37 (4)
5   95   Women       Patty Smaldone     38:49.55 (5)
6   148  Women       Jill Chickering       39:08.26 (6)
7   9    Women       Melanie R. Nelson  57:31.87 (7)
8   147  Women       Erin Cushing         1:01:05 (8)

The Mountain Shop and Mt. Hood Meadows have scheduled another Ram's Head Randonee for this season. It will be heldm Saturday, May 3, 2014 at Meadows.

Who's in?