In its 15 years of existence, the Teton Ridge Classic Nordic ski race has seen it all: sunny skies, galeforce winds, heavy snowfall. But this is the first year the race has ever been moved for inadequate snow coverage.
Race director Dan Streubel did an extensive preview of the course at Teton Ridge Ranch less than two weeks before the race and made the call: no way.
He explained that the course is almost entirely in the forest, not on a wide, easily groomed roadbed, and it’s often bumpy or on a sidehill. It requires quite a bit of snow to groom, and the Tetonia ranch didn’t have enough coverage for the January race.
“The narrow track through the forest is part of what attracts people to Teton Ridge Classic,” Streubel said. “But with the current conditions it would have been a miserable race.”
Grand Targhee immediately stepped up and offered its Nordic area as the new race venue.
“We greatly appreciated Targhee’s willingness to help and the effort they put in to pulling off a great race,” Streubel said. “They went above and beyond to make sure the race was a success.”
Creating the course was a team effort. Targhee’s crew groomed the trail and then Teton Valley Trails and Pathways set the double classic track. Ironically, the resort received some of its only snowfall in two weeks on the morning of the race.
“The tracks were perfect at 8 a.m.,” Streubel said with a laugh. Then it started snowing, but accumulation only totaled around an inch and the leaders compacted the snow during the race.
This year there were over 200 participants. Streubel said the TRC draws the same cast of characters every year and offers a friendly and festive atmosphere. Even Friday’s packet pick-up turns into a social three hours as Nordic skiers from around the region catch up.
Locals placed well in many of the categories, including Streubel’s son Nate, who battled with older students and won his age group. Members of the Teton Valley Ski Education Foundation Nordic team (which is supported with proceeds from the TRC) used the race as a warm up for next weekend’s junior event in West Yellowstone.
One highlight of the race was when Charley French, a 91-year-old from Sun Valley, finished the 14k race and received a standing ovation from everyone at the venue.
“Charley has raced all over the world and had nothing but great things to say,” Streubel said. “We heard a lot of compliments about the venue and it was way better than having to cancel the race.”