As ski racers, our love of the competition leads us to the World Masters, the equivalent of the Olympics for master skiers. The organizers do such a great job that it is unfathomable to realize the planning or coordination to put on such a great event but the results are truly one of life's special moments, for any Nordic skier whether you are a occasional ski racer just wanting to experience the ultimate event or a medal seeker hoping to win the gold. There is something for everyone at the World Masters but the one common-thread is the friendly atmosphere of all the competitors and spectators who take part in this special event. It is like our Michigan Cup family on steroids.
You cannot leave the World Masters at Silver Star without talking about the venue itself. The race course located at Sovereign Lake is an awesome course with perfect grooming, wide trails cut through a dense forest of alpine fur and balsam tree forests. Race organizers did a great job of mixing the right topography in a mountainous region to create a challenging but skier friendly course. As great as the course is, it is only a microcosm of the majestic network of trails interconnecting Silver Star to Sovereign Lakes. I do not have the experience of traveling to other Nordic venues throughout the world but I would argue that it would be very difficult to match the spectacular scenery and network of trails interweaving throughout the region which were all available right outside the door of our condo.
Karen and I would ski to the bus stop, catch the bus, compete in the race and then ski back to the condo on the Gold Mountain Trail which was all down hill (5K) along a ridge overlooking the Sovereign Lake Valley.
As great as the race venue was, the Silver Star trail network was even better. On our off day, Karen and I skied to the Silver Star Village. It was as picturesque as a Thomas Kincaid painting, combining, retail, entertainment and residential with an alpine/Nordic backdrop. From there we skied 4k downhill to the Comet Express chair lift that took us to the top of the Paradise Trail, which is appropriately named for its mystical snow covered landscape that made you feel like you were at the North Pole.
At this point you have an option to ski the Aberdeen Trail (downhill) to the race venue (5K) or as we decided on this day to ski the Paradise Trail another 4-5k to Paradise Camp and enjoy a great bowl of soup and a sticky bun. We continued on the trail and did the Alder Loop and then circled back down Paradise to our condo. Imagine skiing for 1 1/2 hours going all downhill at a leisurely pace so enjoyable that you forget you are a Nordic skier and not a downhill skier.
The most amazing aspect of the Nordic trail system is the way in which it was designed. Instead of having just a network of switchbacks to climb the mountain, they take you around on a gentle and rolling topography interconnected to several World Cup trails. One of my favorites is called the TJ Corkscrew. On the relay day we took the chair lift to the Aberdeen Trail and skied down to the venue, watched the relays and skied back on the Gold Mountain Trail to the condo. I have some pictures to post when I get home including a great video of Karen and Don Camp during the race.
Randy Bladel did a great job reporting the tremendous accomplishments of the US skiers especially our own Jeff Koch and Milan Biac. It was very exciting cheering Milan to two silver medals and Jeff to a National title in the men's 30k race, however, I was equally pleased to see some great accomplishments from Karen and Don Camp. Karen skied as good and consistent as anyone here with 14,15,14th finishes in each of her races. It was not only her finishes but her enthusiasm and excitement that is symbolic of the world masters theme and as the Michigan Cup family knows, typical Karen. Her only disappointment was not being able to converse with other skiers during the race. Some friends we met from Maine took a nice video of Karen at the 4k climb which will be posted in a couple of days along with other ski photos. Personally I had a very disappointing performance brought on mostly because of some health issues that had me pull out of the first race. I was able to finish 19th (3rd US) in the 10k classic but even then felt terrible and exhausted. I was able to ski the 30k but just managed to finish. Fortunately, any personal accomplishments were replaced with the euphoric experience of the event.
Don Camp who stayed with us had a great conclusion to his race events. He finished in 9th place (3rd US) and had a stellar performance throughout the competition capped off with this last race. Karen and I were there to cheer him on during the final climb and our friends from Maine took a great video that I will share in a couple of days. Maybe the only thing that made Don happier was a walk into the Village bar where he played a song or two. He replace the quiet sleepy music that was previously played with a little Tom Petty and brought the bar back to life.