Three years ago I made a trip to Lutsen, Minnesota with Warner Nickerson, Dane Spence, and David Chodounsky to help out at a race series that the Central Region was hosting. I had never been to the mid-west before that trip. When you think of ski racing it is very easy to overlook and area like that. We went for four races and had a great time. It was a beautiful part of the country and the people who put the race on were some of the friendliest, welcoming people I have ever been around. Since that trip I have stayed in touch with them and they have often asked if I can come back for certain races. Unfortunately the timing to do so has never worked out.
In early January I was once again approached and asked if I could go out to La Crosse, Wisconsin for the Nagy Memorial slalom races. For the first time in a while I had an opening in my schedule and made arrangements to join them for the races. The organizers were looking for a few others to race and I spread the word to those who I thought might be interested. A week before the races began we had rounded up quite the men’s race. In the race there were two Olympians, and five racers who had raced in a world cup this year. It was impressive to say the least.
My previous experience in the mid-west at Lutsen was different. It had a breathtaking view right on one of the Great Lakes. La Crosse was a different experience. It is a very small, mom and pop type, ski area located of all places on the banks of the Mississippi River. There are a few trail cut into a tucked away area of a bluff. The race trail at Lutsen was flat, but this was not the case in La Crosse. It was easily as steep as anything I have skied all year.
Everyone in the Central Region is proud of the La Crosse slalom trail and rightfully so. The trail was flat out of the start for five or six gates before a precipitous drop onto a pitch that was about 12 gates long before a final flat into the finish. In the races I struggled to find my rhythm out of the start and when I do that I am never able to find it later on.
It was a bit disappointing to come out to Wisconsin for some races that turned out to be good opportunities and not perform. I was a bit bummed out, but then looking back I had a really fun time there. I got to spend some time with good friends in a much less stressful environment and I met some wonderful new people in addition. It cannot go without saying that we were treated like kings. People went out of their way to help us and make our trip enjoyable. Everyone who had a hand in putting the race together out did themselves and reminded me why it is so great to travel to the mid-west for races. I hope that in the future our schedules work out to do it again. For now I am headed back east to Burke, Vermont for two super g races and two giant slalom races. It’s about that time in the season where a couple weeks of great skiing can turn the whole season around.