Breck Ascent finishes series with ski mountaineering circuit race |

Breck Ascent finishes series with ski mountaineering circuit race

Competitors leave the start line during the Breck Ascent Series finale last season. The series gives veterans and newcomers a taste of ski mountaineering on a variety of terrain.
Elise Reuter / |

Racers capped the Breckenridge Ascent Series Wednesday evening with a short circuit around Peak 7’s Independence Superchair. The popular ski mountaineering race included a new feature with its sixth year: transitions.

At the top of each run, competitors rushed to strip the skins off of their skis and splitboards and buckle back in quickly enough to beat others to the base. Then the process repeated itself, with race winners making up to six laps before the hour passed.

“It’s great because it really gives people a chance to hone in their skills,” said race organizer Brian Schaefer, with the Breckenridge Recreation Department. “A lot of local folks skin up before the resort opens anyways. It’s just a matter of if you want to come out and compete a little bit, and have some fun.”

Michael Hagan led the men’s lightweight competition, with a time of 33 minutes, 34 seconds. Greg Gerloff won men’s heavyweight with a time of 44:16. For the women’s lightweight and heavyweight competitions, Kate Zander and Colleen Ihnken won, with times of 37:04 and 46:52, respectively.

Overall series winners were also announced Wednesday night. Hagan had the fastest times for the men’s lightweight long courses, and Dennis Kuhn led the men’s lightweight short course. Jamie Brede won the women’s lightweight long course, and Erin Socks won the women’s lightweight short course.

The race brought skiers of all ages and abilities, as 28 competitors lined up behind the start. Ezra Klein, a freshman at Summit High School with a junior national cross-country skiing title, tried her hand at ski mountaineering during the series.

“Nordic skiing crosses over pretty well,” Klein said. “I was in it to win it for the first lap, but it was more for fun after that. I was still pretty competitive, though.”

Erin McGinnis, another competitor, said the milder slope and shorter course distance allowed the opportunity to perfect her skiing technique. While most other courses in the series brought a long hike up, Wednesday’s race was a bit shorter.

Previous races brought up to 60 competitors, as courses were set up across Peaks 7, 8, 9 and 10 for the five-race series. Each race is the result of a partnership between the Breckenridge Recreation Department and Breckenridge Ski Resort. In June, the department will kick off its trail running series; registration is already open online.

“I always hate to see the series come to an end. It’s always so fun,” Schaefer said. “But this means we’re on to summer and now it’s running and biking.”

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