Tahoe-area cross-country skiers are in for a treat the next week.
The USSA SuperTour finals, touted as the premier cross-country ski races in the country, will swing through three Donner Summit resorts — Royal Gorge, Auburn Ski Club and Sugar Bowl — from Thursday, April 4, through Thursday, April 11. Tahoe Donner Cross Country also will host a couple of athlete seminars and the final awards ceremony.
The SuperTour finals are a mini-tour made up of four races with cash bonuses for the winners, as well as the best climber, best sprinter and best young skier (under 23). The tour, which is open to the public, concludes the 2012-2013 SuperTour series.
Highlight athletes include Kikkan Randall of the U.S. Ski Team, who recently became the first American woman in history to finish as high as third in the FIS Cross Country World Cup overall standings, as well as U.S. Ski Team members Jessie Diggins and Liz Stephen, and local products Matthew Gelso and Russell Kennedy, who now resides in Canmore, Alberta, and skis for Canada.
“I am very excited to be racing at home,” Kennedy said. “The Truckee/Tahoe area has some world-class skiing. It is good to finally get some bigger events happening. It should also play to the advantage of the locals, although at this level of racing it really comes more down to how fit you are.”
Due to low snow conditions, the race venues were altered slightly from the original schedule.
The first two races — a 3.2-kilometer skate prologue on Thursday and a 10/15K classic mass start on Friday — were moved from Tahoe Donner to Auburn Ski Club, which also will host the classic sprint competition on Saturday.
The tour finishes with the Hill Climb on Monday, which this year will be a grueling test of endurance at Sugar Bowl. The race takes competitors from Sugar Bowl Village down to Van Norden Meadow on the Royal Gorge trail system before sending them over 1,100 vertical feet to the top of Mt. Disney. The race will feature a “pursuit” start in which competitors will start based on how far behind the leader of the mini tour they are after the first three events. The first racer to the top wins the tour overall.
The 30/50K National Distance Championships on Wednesday and Thursday, April 10 and 11, are part of the week of races but are separate from the mini tour. These races will also feature a 15/20K junior race, and will be held on a 10K loop at the Summit Station of Royal Gorge.
These are all important qualification races for the 2014 Olympic Games and will be attended by the best athletes in the USA, as well as a number of international athletes. Discounted spectator passes and free “foot spectator” passes will be offered, and spectators can see plenty of action from the Sun Deck at Summit Station. The awards ceremony and after-party for this event will be held at Tahoe Donner Cross Country on April 11 at noon.
The four SuperTour races are open to any skier, whether or not they hold a USSA, FIS, other license – or even none at all. A skier will only receive USSA points if he or she holds a USSA license, however. Same for FIS.
The Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center contributed to this report.