Echo to Kirkwood

March 18, 1995:

I had saved 5 bucks by mailing in my registration early for yesterday's Echo-to-Kirkwood race (California's most popular--perhaps only-- backcountry XC ski race). So I was committed to do it.

It was ugly. We were cursed with what seemed like 31.9-degree snowfall, with wind. This morning in Jackson, I was talking with two members of the search & rescue team that sponsored the race. Dozens of skiers returned to the starting line soon after the start, and 35 racers (more than 10%!) needed to be evacuated by snowcat, at least two of whom being hypothermic. One word that I kept hearing to describe the conditions was "miserable."

-Bob Akka, 3/19/95

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March 21, 1998:

It was nice to return to this one during good snow conditions. It was pretty warm, but the snow wasn't that sloppy until the very end. Nice fast conditions!

I did the race using skating skis for the first time, and was very pleased. Past the first "cookie station" (at the top of the big first 1300' hill), the course was very nicely groomed and the skating went quite smoothly.

Gear tips: Nearly everyone had skins for the big uphill at the start. I was using 19mm nylon skins, but I would have liked wider; next year I'll use 35mm skins (I'll cut 'em to end just behind the heel of my boots). My skating boots & skis worked great, but I might use long touring poles next year, since so much of the race is either steep uphill or steep downhill, and in the late-March lightly-groomed snow early in the race, the racing baskets of my skating poles tended to sink into the snow too easily.

A fun race. Hats off to the El Dorado Nordic Ski Patrol for putting it on!

-Bob Akka, 3/22/98

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