Moosehead Masters Championships
“The Masters races are really a refreshing way to get back into the sport,” said Bob Rose, 27, winner of the Moosehead Masters National Championship Downhill on Monday, March 11, at Mt. Cranmore.
Mt. Washington Valley has been serving as host to the Moosehead Masters Championships from Sunday, March 10, through Friday, March 15. The prestigious annual three-event competition is open to men and women racers aged 25 and over, racing in 10 different categories according to age. Throughout the week of competition, the major sponsor of the event, Moosehead Beer, will host several apres race parties, and get-togethers for the congenial Masters racers. These will include an awards banquet on Friday, March 15, at the Fox Ridge Resort, with New Hampshire’s Governor John Sununu present to congratulate the racers.
Mt. Cranmore was to host the downhill competition Tuesday, March 12, with Attitash and Wildcat the sites for the giant slalom and slalom races on Thursday and Friday, March 14 and 15. Weather reports from the Mt. Washington Observatory called for several inches of rain mid-week, prompting race officials to reschedule the downhill event. "We met after the practice runs on Sunday," said Chief of Race, Skip Eastman, "and decided not to take chances and listen to the weathermen."
Racing in sunny and balmy 40 to 50 degree weather, Rose took the Class 1 (age 25 to 31) division by more than two seconds, completing the course in 58.89. Second place in Class 1 went to David Dodge of Burlington, Vt., in 60.97, and third went to Dennis Murray from Schenectady, N.Y., who finished in 62.11. In the overall rankings, Class 2 skiers (aged 32 to 39) Victor Roy of Reno, Nevada, and Paul Crews from Anchorage, Alaska, finished second and third behind Rose with times of 60.79 and 60.89. William McCollom of North Pomfret, Vt., was fifth overall and third in Class 2 with 61.69.
An airline pilot for Brockway Air out of Burlington, Vt., Rose joined the Eastern Masters' circuit in January after observing a Masters race in California. “I hadn't raced for about five or six years,” he said, “and they just looked like fun.”
The former University of Vermont ski team member and Green Mountain School instructor was surprised by his excellent showing in Monday's downhill event. “My downhill technique was really an unknown quantity,” Rose explained. “I haven't done it for years, and I never considered myself a downhill expert. I just really hit the turns on the steep which helped my time, and then I tried to carry my speed across the flats.”
In the women's division, Joan Crane Barthold, 26, from Lyme, N.H., took first place, winning the Class 1 division with a time of 63.66. Currently a fourth-year medical student at Dartmouth, the former U.S. Ski team member was followed by North Conway native Susan Fisher. Fisher skied well on her hometown mountain to finish in 65.13. The Mt. Cranmore downhill course followed the same trails as the Super Pro race course her sister, Abbi, skied for her first pro victory earlier this year. Third place in Class 1 division went to Sandra Chivers from Waterville Valley in 65.43.
The glory in Masters racing does not only belong to the young. The highest age category is Class 10 for racers 75 years plus. The number of competitors in those ranks may dwindle, but not the enthusiasm they have for the sport. Al Sise from Norwich, Ct., racing in Class 10--literally in a class by himself--completed the course in 113.07. Sise is a part of skiing history and legend, having raced for more than 50 years, and part of the family which sponsors the Sise Cup for the Eastern Masters men racers.
Four more septuagenarians competed in Men's Class 9 (ages 70 to 74), with Dennis Szokolay finishing first in 83.39. This marked the second downhill the skier from Reading, Ct., had raced since competing in the 1936 Olympics for his native Czechoslavakia. Al Sise's "baby" brother, Herbert, finished second in 84.00, with Carl Watson of the SLOTHS Ski Club (Slightly Over The Hill Skiers) of Reno, Nev., in third place with 94.06.
Many of the names, if not the faces, of those racing in the Masters Championships had a familiar ring to those who have followed ski racing over the years. Fisher, Akers, McGrath, Lathrop--these are all sur-names of well-known ski racers, but it was their parents or siblings who were competing this week in Mt. Washington Valley. They made it evident that enthusiasm for skiing and love of racing seems to run in families.
Cynthia and Francis Lathrop, of New Hampton, are the parents of Jeff, operations manager at Attitash, and Steve, former U.S. Ski Team member and pro racer. Cynthia continued her rivalry in Class 7 (ages 60 to 64) with Norma Lausmann of Squaw Valley, Calif., winning the division and taking a commendable 12th place overall for the women with 78.00. Lausmann was 16th out of the 26 women racers in 80.93. Francis Lathrop, who was the oldest competitor in the Tuckerman Ravine G.S. Classic last spring, finished fifth in Class 7 in 73.00 with Kittery Point resident, Arne Rostad winning the division in 65.85.
Former Olympian Abbi Fisher owes much of her competitive spirit to her parents, Pam and Bob, as does her sister, Susan, who finished second overall for the women. In Monday's action, Pam was the only woman in the Class 6 (ages 55 to 59) division to brave the course and obviously took a first, Bob finished third in the men's Class 6 behind John Gianotti of California, and Duffy Dodge of St. Johnsbury, Vt.
Both Duffy and his son David, who finished fourth overall in the downhill, fared well in Monday’s action. The other Dodge boy, Peter, is also faring well in the skiing world as he is currently ranked eighth on the Pro tour.
Second place finisher in the men's Class 5 (ages 50 – 54), Bob Baker, has two daughters who compete Women's Pro Tour. Leslie and Laurie Baker are faces to local skiers, as the attractive blonds appear in CB ads and the Attitash winter brochure.
This may have been Franconia's Jean Akers first downhill, but she must have gotten some hints from her son Ben who races for the U.S. Ski Team on the Europa and World Cup tour. In her first downhill event, Jean captured a third in Class 3 (40 to 44) behind Al Sise's daughter Nancy Auseklis (third place woman overall with 65.15), and Pam Jezukawitz.
Second place finisher in the men's Class 4 (ages 45 to 49) Robert McGrath, obviously passed on some of his knowledge to his son Felix, who is a teammate of Ben Akers on the U.S. Ski Team. It may be questionable who gives whom hints, but Eric Anderson, brother of Maine's Olympic racer Karl Anderson, did well in the downhill competition.
Many local competitors are racing on their hometown mountains this week with mixed results. Jackson's Gay Folland finished second in the women's Class 2 in 71.15, with Tamara Marcinuk in third finishing in 74.79. John Pepper competed in Class 6, and in Class 5, Wally Ashnault returned to his hometown to finish fourth in his division in 70.36.
Former collegiate racer, Brett Russell, was fourth in Class 4, finishing in 68.97, and Ned McSherry of Center Conway, N.H., had the fastest time of the day for a Valley skier, finishing third in Class 3 and 11th overall with 62.94. Chris McAleer, Joe Berry, and Jon Burr all raced in Class 2, with Kevin Madden and Bob Burr competing in Class 1.
Tuesday's rains, which arrived in force, did not serve to dampen anyone's enthusiasm for racing. Both Wildcat and Attitash have been preparing for this event all season, making large amounts of snow on the trails to be used for competition. “Both courses should be in excellent shape for the races,” said Attitash operations manager, Jeff Lathrop.
The rain did not dampen another important aspect of participating on the Masters circuit--the socializing. A major part of the enjoyment is renewing longtime friendships and getting together with people who have similar interests every week. “This is just a wonderful group of people,” said Bob Rose, who has run into former coaches and racing rivals at this week's event. “They are just fun to be with and to race against.”