The best snow and weather conditions in years greeted us on Sunday morning at Lake Louise for the 71K historic and challenging race to Banff.
40 relay teams along with 25 enthusiastic individual skiers lined up in the 8 a.m. darkness on the most famous lake in the world. (Maybe 39 teams; one skier was still running towards the lake after the other skiers had already started). The mountains surrounding the lake were only dark silhouettes in the pre-dawn sky when Joe Lunn
fired the pistol said “go,” and the unknowing skiers were sent over the abyss(aka Tramline). Over seven hours from here, for some solo skiers on Healy creek, with every muscle aching, they may have considered it the vortex of doom.
Our race was going along great. We switched things up this year, with Peter doing the first and longest leg, and I took his usual leg 3. Cheryl had another solid ski along scenic leg 2. After each of us did one leg, our team was sitting in seventh place overall.
There’s always a surprise in store, however. This year, it wasn’t the weather, the snow, or our lackadaisical attitudes. Hand-offs were crisp and sure, with the next skier prepared and ready to go.
On leg 4, going downhill, Cheryl took an awkward spill and dislocated her knee cap. Before I go any further, I want to thank all the people who helped her as she was laying, unable to move, on the side of the trail. Carl Pryce was the first skier who encountered her, and stayed with her until he was able to flag down a vehicle.
All this happened unbeknownst to me, as I was waiting for her arrival at Sawback. I started seeing numerous skiers coming in, who I had passed on Leg 3, but no Cheryl. I drove back to see what happened. By this time she had been rescued by Cindy and Scott, who drove her to Johnston Canyon and an ambulance had been called.
I was prepared to end the racing then and there, but Cheryl wouldn’t hear of it. She encouraged me to go back and resume where she left off. We did just that, having lost about an hour. My mind wasn’t focused too well after that, but I started skiing at the exact point where she had her accident.
Our finish line photo this year is a little unconventional, having been taken in the Banff hospital. Cheryl’s leg is in a splint, a large bag of ice is wrapped around her knee, and she’s walking with crutches. Sad to say, Cheryl won’t be in my skiing photos for the rest of the winter.
The final results and other photos are posted on the loppet website.