Gold Run Rush Nordic races return to Frisco Jan. 9 | SummitDaily.com

Gold Run Rush Nordic races return to Frisco Jan. 9

There's nothing like fighting through a claustrophobic mass start at a Nordic race. Summit County native Cameron Bobb wouldn't have it any other way.

"I really enjoy those mass start races, fighting through all the people at the start," said Bobb, a 19-year-old former Summit Nordic Ski Club member who now competes with the Bridger Ski Foundation club in Montana. "There are a great amount of people in the county who have a love for the sport and love getting together."

His wish for a wild and wooly mass start is about to come true. This Saturday, for the 46th year running, nearly 600 skiers will descend on the Frisco Peninsula for the Gold Run Rush Nordic series. It's become a mid-winter staple after four decades, attracting skiers from across the state for a Nordic showdown on the peninsula's rolling terrain.

For the third year, the Gold Run Rush is also a sanctioned Colorado High School Activities Association race for high school and middle school skiers. Organizers expect to host roughly 385 student athletes this weekend, plus another 200-some-odd skiers from every corner of the state.

Young and old will battle long flats, Frisco's lung-burning elevation and, of course, almost 400 of their closest friends in one of four events: a 20K skate ski at 9 a.m., a 10K open for skate and classic at 9:30 a.m., the student CHSAA races from 9:30 a.m. to about noon and a 3K open fun race for both disciplines right at noon. Unlike last season, every course will follow Nordic center trails without heading to the hilly (and surprisingly challenging) Adventure Center trails.

There are prizes for the top-three overall male and female finishers at each distance, along with another round of prizes for winners in each of the seven age divisions. All races begin with a mass start — no heats, no waves … just "go."

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"I'd say altitude is definitely a factor up here," said Bobb, who's been in Summit for about three weeks now and is comfortable again at his home altitude of 9,000-plus feet. "Really, you just need to have the lungs for this one and be able to push through the flat sections. It hurts to come to that elevation and push yourself."

With so many people battling each other and the altitude, he expects the level of competition to be steep. But, then again, it always is: Last year, he took second in the 10K skate event behind Aspen's Noah Hoffman, a U.S Olympian who was in town for rehab before heading overseas for the World Cup series.

Hoffman won't be in town this year, but Bobb will be. He's sticking around his hometown for one final race before heading back to Montana in time for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association's SuperTour, the top-level junior races in the states. That's just the level of competition the Gold Run Rush attracts: the best of the best.

"It's been fun to compete against guys at a higher level, and I've been doing that for some time now," he said. "It's been pushing me to get better, constantly having to compete with those high-level racers."

Support for SNSC

Just don't let big-name competitors keep you off the course. Like it has for 46 years, all the huffing and puffing at the Gold Run Rush is for a good cause: A portion of the proceeds go to SNSC, the local Nordic club that's produced plenty of top-tier athletes through the years.

"This is a great tradition in Frisco," said Linsey Joyce, the recreation programs manager for Frisco. "The Nordic races have been a benefit since the day they started, and that's what brought this event to the community. They wanted a fundraiser for our Nordic skiers here."

Last season, the races raised about $2,000 for the club. Those funds help send local skiers to the USSA Junior Nationals, held this year from March 6-13 in Cable, Wisconsin. It's where skiers like Summit High School sophomore Ezra Smith have dominated the competition, setting them up for success down the road. And it works: She had a stellar showing at the U.S. Cross Country Championships in Houghton, Michigan this week, which earned her a spot on the U.S. junior national team.

"It's not always a cheap trip to make it out to Nationals," Joyce said. "You have travel expenses and equipment and everything else, and that's what this event helps the team do."

Bonfire time

After the races at 6 p.m. comes the Spontaneous Combustion bonfire and fireworks show. It's another fundraiser for SNSC, with food, hot cocoa, gear and other items on sale. The event is open to anyone and everyone, not just racers, and Joyce expects hundreds to stick around for the free festivities.

"Even if you aren't a skier and want to support the ski club, come on out to the bonfire," she said. "That's really the culmination of this event and a great way to finish the night."

Gold Run Rush Nordic races

What: A series of four races for the public and Colorado student athletes, including a 20K skate course, 10K skate and classic course, and 3K skate and classic fun course

When: Saturday, Jan. 9 beginning at 9 a.m.

Where: Frisco Nordic Center, 616 Recreation Way in Frisco (near the Adventure Park)

Cost: $15 to $40, depending on distance

Pre-registration for all races is still open. Cost is $40/adult and $35/youth (20K skate at 9 a.m.), $35/adult and $30/youth (10K skate/classic at 9:30 a.m.), or $20/adult and $15/youth (3K fun ski at noon). Registration is available at the event for an additional $5 beginning at 7:30 a.m. Bib pickup is available from 7 a.m. to noon. Fees include a post-race bowl of soup, Gold Run Rush ski socks and chip timing through Maverick Sports. The fun race is not timed. For more info, see http://www.townoffrisco.com.