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Race Season

A local Nordic coach verbally abuses his young skiers.

It's ski race season here in Seeley. We manage to pack all of our races into a three week span which tends to make things a little hectic but the end result is that we get it over with quickly and then we can go back to grooming and skiing. Or in my case coaching and skiing. I'll groom when I have to, but it's not my favorite activity.

We didn't set out to hold all of our races on consecutive weekends, it just turned out that way. We learned early on with OSCR that once you've established a date for your race you've got to hang on to it regardless of what other races are happening in the region. Other area clubs recognize that OSCR is the last Saturday in January and if they schedule an overlapping race their turnout will be pretty slim. OSCR is in its 40th year, draws as many as 150 racers, and that date will have to be pried from our cold, dead fingers.

Biathlon immediately follows OSCR and we claimed the first Saturday in February as ours.

The biathlon race wasn't originally a club function. It was first begun by a local person who abandoned it after several years, despite its growing appeal. Holding a race is a lot of work, especially for an individual, and biathlon is a ski race on steroids when it comes to organization, managing the shooting aspect and numbers of volunteers. There's no glory in it and very little profit in the beginning, if ever. The Nordic club recognized how popular it had become so we resurrected it and it's now part of our annual race menu. We've gone so far as to establish a dedicated shooting range where we've pushed around a bunch of dirt to provide a level and raised shooting platform as well as a level area for targets. In addition, we placed a storage unit on site to house the small mountain of targets and other gear required for a successful biathlon.

The focus of Skiesta is on kids. It's not an official Nordic club race but we provide support through volunteers and grooming. Bridget Laird, the director of the SLE Outdoor Program, got it going 7 or 8 years ago and I told her at the time to hold on for dear life to that Saturday. It's the Saturday before OSCR, completing our trifecta of three race weekends in a row. It's another one that's grown immensely and this year upwards of 90 skiers from as far away as Sandpoint and Libby turned out to compete.

2022 will be Lynn's last year to run OSCR. Over 40 years the race has grown from a barely groomed point-to-point journey with only a handful of racers into the biggest and best known cross country ski race in western Montana. In the 30 years since Lynn took the helm it's become a well-oiled machine that on the surface seems to come off like magic year after year. The reality is that beneath that shiny exterior there is a considerable amount of volunteer work. And the other reality is that the volunteers who do that work aren't getting any younger and are starting to burn out, to the point that I'm hearing suggestions that maybe this should be the last OSCR.

Will this be the last OSCR? I don't know. But for now, anyway, the last Saturday in January belongs to us.



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