2004 Kangaroo Hoppet Report
September 2, 2004
By Ari Ofsevit
Saturday, August 28, 2004:
We left for the race at 7:30, and after traversing the long,
and winding road (that led to the door) we arrived at the
base of the ski trails. The sun was shining and it was just
a spectacular day. The temperature was below freezing, and
the course was solid and very well groomed. I made my way
up to the Nordic Bowl, where all the XC trails intersect,
about half a kilometre from the car park. Since my number,
33, was within the top 100, I was in the front start group,
and after a quick warm-up, I made my way in to the paddock,
where we all waited through Advance Australia Fair and then
watched some weird soldier looking guys ceremonially fire
the start gun. It seems that people from America and Europe
get good start positions no matter, the skier next to me,
#37, was a Norwegian on rental equipment.
The race (check
out this map, it will help the course make more sense)
starts up a short hill, which makes for some fun double poling,
before descending on to the Sun Valley Loop. Except for a
few shor sections, the entire course is in bright sunshine,
and sunscreen was a must (I still got burnt to a crisp). The
first 7 ks were very fast, as the snow was hard and icy, and
the course rolling. The hills were screaming fast and scenery
spectacular. I talked to a bloke from Minnesota, Larry Larson,
after I recognized his race suit as one of the ones being
sold at Finn Sisu last year.
The race course crossed below the dam wall along the Rocky
Valley Resorvior (mostly drained for the winter) and then
proceeded along the edge of the lake. At 10k, it turned up
a hill called "The Paralyzer." It was aptly named.
It was not steep, but it was long and had no resting at all.
Two kilometres of gradual uphill, which I could not quite
maintain a V2 on. At the top of the hill the course opens
on to the Bogong High Plains, which are just spectacular.
It curves around to a drink station, and then goes around
a bit of a loop before gaining one more hill to the high point
on the race course at nearly 1800 metres. The race then descends
those same 200 metres very quickly via hills named "The
Bladerunner" and "The S's" (still very fast
snow) to recross the top of the dam wall and go through the
lap control, while the 21k Australian Birkebiener race ends.
The course heads back out the Sun Valley loop and circles
around to the far side of the Rocky Valley Storage Resorvior.
In past years it continued flat before climbing "The
Wall" up to the top of the high plains, but this year
it had a pretty long, steep climb, followed by a fast downhill,
and then another steep climb, called "Riley's Revenge."
It was at the top of this climb that there was a drink station,
the first since the top of the Paralyzer. This was followed
by another climb up on to the plateau. Overall, this was the
toughest portion of the race, as there were long hills after
25k of skiing.
After a rather flat section with spectacular views of far-off
mountain ranges (I was quite happy to be skiing on a bright,
sunny day) the couse hits a downhill back down towards the
resorvior. As I descended, a bloke ahead of me skidded out
on an icy patch and fell, causing me to try to pass him and
fall as well (although I got up first). There was a drink
station after a breif winding section through a patch of snowgums,
and then it was all downhill (okay, mostly downhill) to the
finish. The trail went around the resorvior, passed a drink
station at Watchbed Creek, and then went along the road along
the resorvior, across the dam, and in to the finishing chute.
I was leading a pack of three or four for this last section,
and was able to V2 across the dam and up the hill to the finish
to break away.
My final time was 2:25:02, while the winner skied it in 1:35,
a course record. I placed 92d, 3d in my age class (18-19,
age taken on January 1), and 4th amongst the Americans in
the race. I think this is decent, considering that I had only
been at altitude for 45 minutes prior to the race, I had not
been able to train much the week prior to the race, I had
barely eaten anything the two days before the race, I had
only been on snow four times since March, and by the time
I hit the hills on the far side, they were very sloppy. I
finished, top 100 in a Worldloppet race (probably the only
time I will ever do that) and got my passport stamped! Onwards
to the Birkie!
One suggestion for the race, which I am going to send the
race officials, is to have cold drinks at the food stations.
I asked at one and they said that they were not allowed to
give us cold drinks, because it would give people cramps.
Now, I appreciate a hot drink when a race is held in 10°F
temperatures. But when it is 40°F out, and you are skiing
a course in hot sunshine with no shade, hot drinks can make
you sick. By the third food station I was stopping to pick
up snow to cool down the drink so I could get down two or
three cups, as necessitated by the hot conditions. Maybe they
were trying to give the locals the advantage, but not having
the option of cold drinks is uncalled for. Of course, it is
a different mentality, one of the Minnesotans I was talking
to said that as he waited at the start, when it was about
30°F, an Aussie next to him was mumbling "C'mon,
let's get this started. My toes are getting cold." They
were probably wearing wool socks, too.
The finish atmosphere was festive, and I arrived in time
for the podium ceremony, although I did not have my camera.
After the good skiers got their due, I had a sausage in white
bread with onions and tomato sauce from the barbie (an Aussie
special). After retrieving my camera, I took a very leisurely
ski along the edge of the resorvior, eschewing any climbing.
All in all, I skied about 50k.
Sunday, August 29, 2004:
The weather that was supposed to come in had not materialized,
and there was only a thin cloud cover. We headed up to Falls
Creek and were skiing by 10. I headed up The Paralyzer and
found that the snow on the Bogong High Plains was very firm
and a bit crusty. It supported me wonderfully. I left the
groomed trails and went crust skiing up and down the hills,
in solitude, passed only by the groomer. By noon the rest
of the group had made it up and we skied over to a hut to
eat lunch. This was crust skiing at its best. No matter where
I went, there was a thick, firm, fast base for me to ski upon.
After lunch it had warmed enough that the crust had turned
to mush and the skiing had deteriorated. I headed along the
rest of the Hoppet trail, on snow which was very, very slow.
The climb to the high point was excruciating, and the descent,
which had been exhilirating the day before, was extremely
slow. We headed down to the parking lot and left around 3:00.
Photoset from Ari Ofsevit (46 photos)
About the author...
Ari Ofsevit is a Macalester College skier and has
been spending part of the summer enjoying excellent
skiing conditions in Victoria, Australia. Be sure to
check out some of his Aug
2004 Trail reports (w/ photos).