Standing at the top of the race course on a Wednesday night of the Park City, Town Series Race, a few things become very clear. Some racers still have it. Some don’t. But everyone, everyone, looks happy to be standing in the starting gate.
The Town Series as it stands today is quite new to Park City. This upcoming Saturday, March 30th, in fact, marks the completion of just the second season of racing. And while this may seem surprising given the racing pedigree of this speed-crazy town, what’s not surprising, is how quickly and passionately the local community has embraced the series.
Good Friends, Cold Beer, and Ski Racing
But then again, what’s not to love? Four divisions – Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum – keep racers fairly ranked against their opponents, and allow for the formation of teams based on camaraderie, and not strict ability. Park City Mountain Resort offers discounted night skiing lift passes ($15.00) in the name of keeping things affordable. And the award ceremonies are held at two of the best bars in town (The Pig Pen Saloon and the Corner Store trade off as host), with pointless trophies replaced by ever-useful beer mugs.
But before anyone gets to unbuckle and kick back in the bar, there’s the business of running gates. Out on the course, the appearance of a serious, competitive race is maintained with dedication by the Park City Ski Team employees. Two-way radios beam back and forth from top to bottom, timekeeping is digitized and official, and racers kick through the starting gates in the head-to-head format. The stage is set for some serious and cutthroat competition.
The racers themselves, however, seem to work diligently to shed any appearance of taking things too seriously. Speed suits are shunned in favor of standard, more flattering ski wear. Beers are passed around, racers catch up with friends seen too rarely, and the occasional flask flashes in the fading sunlight.
A Deceptively Casual Attitude
That’s not to say the talent out on the course is anything less than remarkable. Former NCAA racers, Masters champions, even Ted Ligety makes the occasional appearance. Some racers very clearly haven’t lost their form at all. Others hint at their glory days through varying layers of rust. And still quite a few show no signs of racing experience at all, and no signs of letting that worry them.
The mood is lighthearted and supportive. Times are duly noted and posted, but not broadcast for all to judge. The emphasis during Town Series Races is placed on individual improvement, and good old fashioned friendly rivalry. Racers enter in teams of four, or even as individuals, and compete on everything from the newest World Cup GS rocket ships, to Tele skis and snowboards.
If you haven’t experienced a Town Series Race, unfortunately you’ve missed your chance. For this season. But let the idea kick around inside your head this summer, and when the snow arrives next fall, come see what all the evening hoopla is about up on the race hill. Whether you’re in it to win it, in it to socialize, or just in it for some good ol’ beer-league racing, the Town Series will not disappoint.
Nate Tomlinson, Content Writer