Maloit Park madness: Battle Mountain girls win, Vail Mountain School boys take third in home Nordic ski meet

Maloit Park madness: Battle Mountain girls win, Vail Mountain School boys take third in home Nordic ski meet

Athletes take off at the start of the Colorado High School Ski League race at Maloit Park on Saturday.
Rex Keep/Courtesy photo

Saturday had every ingredient for a perfect ski day — if your cup of tea is shredding pow.

For area high school Nordic skiers hoping to negotiate Maloit Park’s notoriously steep climbs in the Colorado High School Ski League’s third meet of 2023, the overnight accumulation and mid-morning flake falling presented tricky track conditions for those craving the ol’ stick-and-stride.

“The conditions were not exactly what I thought it would be or what I was hoping it would be,” said Battle Mountain senior Kyle Ross, who placed 14th individually for the Huskies in the 5-kilometer classic race. The course profile, combined with heavy snowfall, simplified the strategy for most: double-pole the flats and herringbone the hills.

Kyle Ross was the top Battle Mountain skier at Saturday’s high school league race at Maloit Park.
Rex Keep/Courtesy photo

“Climbing these hills with the new snow we got, it was just like powder,” said Lake County’s Jace Peters, who took the lead on the second of two 2.5-kilometer laps but was passed in the homestretch by Gray Barker. The Middle Park skier took the win in 14 minutes, 57 seconds. Peters (15:00), who was 40-seconds clear of Evan Morrison in third, charged into the lead on the penultimate flat, right before the peloton’s second trip up Weiland’s Way.

“I was like, ‘well I’m feeling good, might as well go,” Peters said, adding that he hoped to close the door on the hillier upper section of the course. “In my race plan, that’s where I was really going to go, but I just couldn’t.”

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Summit took the team title with 222 points, followed by Middle Park (196) and Vail Mountain School (187). The Gore Rangers placed two in the top 10 — Will Brunner (16:01) in eighth and Cyrus Creasy (16:04) in ninth.

“My goal was to fire through the first lap, kinda get a good spot for the boys and then just try to make it to the end,” said Creasy, who is looking forward to stepping up to the 15-kilometer distance at next weekend’s Junior National Qualifier club race in Steamboat Springs. “I felt pretty good.”

When it came to conditions, Brunner reiterated the reoccurring theme, albeit with a smile on his face.

“The steep ups were hard, the snow was so soft,” said the VMS junior, who succumbed to the ever-developing ruts on Maloit Park’s technical turns during the second lap.

“Getting around the corners was hard; it was just super soft.”

He wasn’t the only athlete to take a spill.

Eagle Valley Nordic skiers double pole across Maloit Park during Saturday’s Colorado High School Ski League races.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

“I couldn’t stay on my feet,” said Eagle Valley’s Eric Asselin with a smile after finishing in 18:58 as the Devils’ seventh skier. “Other than that, it went well.”

Ethan Barber’s 18th-place (16:41) led the Devils to a seventh-place team mark. Kai Skellion (17:36) and Tyler Blair (18:13) were 28th and 39th, respectively, to round out Eagle Valley’s scoring.

“It was good,” Blair said. “The stick was pretty good, had lots of fun. Some good downhills.”

Blair, who also runs cross-country for Eagle Valley, was shooting for a sub-18-minute time. His strategy was to incorporate his running ability. “That’s where I really went for it — on the uphills.”

The Devils, defending Nordic state champions, have a young but promising squad.

“I couldn’t ask for a better group of freshman,” head coach Paul Steiner said.

“We have a lot of fast freshman and a lot of new freshman,” added Asselin.

Contrary to their down-valley rivals, Ross said the Huskies top skiers have generally been upperclassmen, a trend which continued Saturday. Juniors Miles McKenzie (16:47) and Dylan Sullivan (16:49) placed 19th and 20th in the No. 2 and No. 3 team slots, respectively. With the departure of Sullivan Middaugh, who placed third in the state classic meet last year, Ross has assumed increased leadership.

“It’s a lot of pressure,” said the senior, who plans on joining the University of Utah’s club Nordic team next fall. He credited off-season roller skiing and double-pole volume increases for improvements in his classic technique, which he considers his weaker discipline. Ross is still hoping for a top-10 or even top-5 finish at the state meet in Frisco on Feb. 16-17. Last year, the Battle Mountain boys were second to Summit by a mere 27.5 points.

Battle Mountain skiers compete at the Colorado High School Ski League races on Saturday at Maloit Park in Minturn.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

“It wasn’t a big loss, but a lot of the people that were on the states team last year are back and I think the boys want to win,” Ross stated.

Whether the grip wax was dialed or not, one undeniable fact is that the girls likely faced even tougher conditions when they took to portions of the FIS-homologated course an hour later.

Athletes get out hard at the start of Saturday’s girls 5-kilometer classic race at Maloit Park.
Rex Keep/Courtesy photo

With transitions and cornering skills at a premium, Ella Bullock’s (17:38) talents were on full display. The Lake County junior stayed on her feet and used the upper course to pull away en route to a 24-second win over Sylvia Brower (18:02).

“I’m used to skiing in these conditions, without grooming,” Bullock — whose goal and expectation coming in was nabbing the top spot — said.

The Panthers finished with 208 points, good for second overall, as Battle Mountain (214), led by Lindsey Whitton’s (18:24) third-place finish, took the overall team title.

“Battle Mountain girls crushed it today,” stated head coach Jeff Apps. “Five girls in the top 20. Very proud of them.”

Addison Bueche on her way to an eighth-place finish at Maloit Park.
Rex Keep/Courtesy photo

Whitton, the defending state skimeister champion, who competed in a Nordic Town Series race on Wednesday as well as an Alpine meet Friday, was seeded as the Huskies fourth-best skier, meaning she came all the way from the second wave to secure her impactful overall finish.

“Which is pretty crazy,” noted Ross. “Nobody was expecting that.”

Kira Hower (19:16) and Addison Beuche (19:28) were seventh and ninth overall, respectively. Presley Smith, another skimeister, placed 11th.

Eagle Valley (148) charged to a seventh-place finish behind twins Ava (20:46) and Emma (21:24) Bergsten, who were 23rd and 29th, respectively.

“The course was better than I thought,” said Ava who approached the second trip up the “big hill” with stoic resiliency.

“I was just like, ‘push to the top of the hill and then you’re basically done.’”

“I think that was one of the hardest I’ve ever tried in a race,” her sister added. “I was really pushing it today. It’s not too cold which was nice. It was perfect.” 

Addison Marsh (22:33) rounded out the Devils scoring in 37th place.

Falling snow made for tricky classic skiing on Saturday as athletes struggled to find grip on Maloit Park’s steep uphills.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

“The entire team skied well today,” Steiner said. “We’re making new normals. Positive new normals.”

Even if some would rather powder ski through trees in the given conditions, a pleased Brunner summarized the skinny-ski spirit in regards to his choice of activity.

“It was fun to get out there and hammer. I think it was like a perfect day with the snow,” he said.

“The conditions were fun. It was an exciting race. I mean it’s beautiful out here today.”