2024: Mt. Ashwabay Summit Ski Race

To (continue to) say that the 2023-24 Winter has been subpar and has negatively impacted snow-dependent communities in the upper midwest continues to be an understatement. The Canadian Birkebeiner, the North End Classic, the Pre-Birkie and the Vasaloppet USA (all scheduled for two weeks before the American Birkebeiner) were cancelled within the last week … a result of the ongoing the El Niño Winter and the accompanying low snow situation in our nordic Midwest. I was (and still am) very grateful to have had a second event in as many weekends go off without a hitch!

da 2023-24 Winter

The contents of this section haven’t changed since my last race report (2024 Noquemanon Ski Marathon) but is included as is for completeness purposes. Over the last couple Winters, I had committed to learning the art of kick waxing in greater detail. But for any number of reasons excuses, I almost always had trained on skinnies (or the skin skis) and raced on waxies (or waxable skis). Given the ratio of racing days to training days during this period, it wasn’t hard to explain why I hadn’t gotten any better at this art. I had travelled as far as ABR Ski Trails near the Eastern Cheddar Curtain, and Theodore Wirth Regional Park (in Minneapolis, MN) on the other side of the Western Cheddar Curtain to find snow in the early days of the 2023-24 Winter. Wanting to make the most of my time away from home, I had used skinnies for those 70-ish kilometers.

Binary scenarios have almost always, within reason, helped me avoid decision fatigue and temptations. So, for good or bad or anything in between, I put the skinnies away for the season after returning from Minneapolis, MN. The next 160-ish classic kilometers leading up to the Mt. Ashwabay Summit Ski Race were spent exclusively on waxies exploring the rabbit hole, and gaining some confidence and experience along the way.

da Race Week

The Wolf Tracks Rendezvous in Minocqua, WI, had kept me busy the first weekend of February over the past four years. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to being a part of it for the fifth year in a row. Once that event was cancelled in the third week of January, I was quite content with staying local and training at one of our lovely trails. Like the week before, the regional temperatures headed the wrong way and all our local trails suspended grooming.

I had heard of the Mt. Ashwabay Summit Ski Race – mostly for its skiathlon option and it being a collegiate race but I wasn’t entirely sure when it was held. It took a few iterations of going back and forth in my own mind as the editions (classic, skate, skiathlon, full, half, etc.) and distances (30k, 15k, etc.) changed as the race day got closer: there would be no skiathlon, half and full distances would be just one distance (12k) and tracks may or may not exist for the classic style. A timely response from the race director – let’s just call her Kate The Great to protect her identity – a couple days before helped make up my mind and I signed up for the short distance classic style event. As usual, Toko think tank released the official wax recommendation on Thursday. As usual, coupling MikeY and Bjorn and Kris of Out There Nordic lessons, I wrapped up the ski preparation as well as packing the car before calling it a night.

Salomon RC7 196
Glide zone
Cleaner Toko Racing Wax Remover
Toko Steel Brush
Wax/Structure Toko GHW HP Blue
Toko ST1 Red
Toko GLW HP Red
Grip zone
Cleaner Toko HC3 Wax Remover
Binder/Wax Klister zone roughened with 150G sandpaper
Toko KKP Green (binder) ironed and thumbed
Toko KKP 1:1 Red:Yellow ironed, thumbed and cooled
Prolink binding set to 0

da Race Day

As my good fortune would have it, Bayfield, WI, was in the Central Time Zone, and the start time of the classic edition  km edition was around 10:15 am. All this made it much easier to get a full night of sleep and thanks to dry (as in non icy) roads, make the 3-hour drive with relative ease. Checking in at the chalet, picking up by bib, using Jenna‘s technique to pin it over a fashionable and camera-friendly cloth bib, and getting a quick bit to eat from the cafe was all a breeze … and was done by 9:30-9:45 am.

The minutes ticked by while watching other skiers get ready, lined up and take off. Soon it was my turn to line up in my corral and my event – 12 km classic – started on time. Race organizers indicated that existing classic tracks had mostly disappeared and the base wasn’t deep enough to set fresh ones for race day. But I didn’t expect the skate deck to be as firm – a courtesy of snow shoveling party held by the hearty race org and saintly volunteers followed by diligent grooming by the trail staff! The same snow shoveling party had also covered up pretty much every thin/exposed part of the course and there was very very little debris anywhere!

Weather conditions
hh:mm, temperature (what was, what it felt like and dew point), wind, humidity, pressure, air density, visibility, sky and UV index
Start 10:20, 25/19/24 F, 5 mph SSW, 98%, 980.2 mbar, 1.266, 6, Overcast clouds, UVI 1
Middle 10:48, 25/19/25 F, 5 mph SW, 100%, 972.9 mbar, 1.2565, 6, Overcast clouds, UVI 1
End 11:16, 25/25/25 F, 0 mph N, 100%, 980 mbar, 1.2657, 6, Overcast clouds, UVI 1
Air quality 25, O3

Goal vs Reality
Goal: 12 km in 1:00:00 (5:00 min/km)
Reality: 11.59 km in 0:56:14:0 (4:51 min/km)
Lap Time
Lap Elevation
Total Time
Total Elevation
Avg Pace
Finish Time

Goal Time

1.00 4:29 11 5 0:04:29 11 5 4:28 0:53:00 0:07:00
2.00 5:56 30 0 0:10:25 41 5 5:12 1:02:00 0:02:00
3.00 8:14 52 5 0:18:39 93 10 6:12 1:14:00 0:14:00
4.00 5:48 20 18 0:24:27 113 28 6:06 1:13:00 0:13:00
5.00 4:12 4 24 0:28:39 117 52 5:43 1:08:00 0:08:00
6.00 4:00 4 37 0:32:39 121 89 5:26 1:05:00 0:05:00
7.00 4:25 6 2 0:37:04 127 91 5:17 1:03:00 0:03:00
8.00 4:38 6 4 0:41:42 133 95 5:12 1:02:00 0:02:00
9.00 4:20 1 14 0:46:02 134 109 5:06 1:01:00 0:01:00
10.00 3:26 3 20 0:49:28 137 129 4:56 0:59:00 0:01:00
11.00 4:04 2 5 0:53:32 139 134 4:51 0:58:00 0:02:00
11.61 2:47 9 4 0:56:19 148 138 4:51 0:58:00 0:02:00
The final cumulative time, 0:56:19, may not match the official time (0:56:14:0) owing to rounding errors. Starting my watch a few seconds before the start and stopping it a few seconds after crossing the finish line can be an additional reason for this discrepancy. The overall distance, 11.59 km, may not match the designated (or certified) event distance (12 km) owing to idiosyncrasies associated with GPS data collection OR my inability to take the tangents OR the aforementioned early start/late stop reasons, and in some rare cases, incorrectly measured (or advertised) courses or DNFs. As a result, the cumulative pace and the projected finish time might not match the official values as well.

Going into an event expecting it to be a double pole derby, even the slightest hint of tracks along the way led to a lot of stoic excitement. Never having skied here before, My goals were to keep the outing safe, fair and fun for all, and sustain a steady effort level with a focus on good form and terrain-appropriate technique. As the course left the flats and started snaking through fog filled trees, I did have some slippage while I strided and herringboned approaching the crest. The combination of that what’s on top of the skis matters more than the skis or what’s underneath (MikeY) and it’s poor form/technique, often in the later parts of a race, that results in lack of kicking (Kris and Bjorn, Out There Nordic), as it had in previous events, easily carried me through the situation and to the solution. Volunteers were present at several strategic locations (read: downhill with a turn) to shovel snow back on to the course. Their presence provided a visual cue for me to scrub the speed as I descended towards the finish following a curvy and pretty course.

For the second weekend/event in a row, picking and implementing the terrain-appropriate technique came with ease, and I admit that I still have a long way to go to preserve my speed during downhills … especially during downhills with turns (read: step-turning instead of snowplowing). I finished with an official time of 0:56:14 without falling or breaking anything of my own (or better yet, of anyone around me) – good for 5/11 overall, 5/8 gender and 2/3 in AG.

I spent a good amount of time catching up with friends – known and new – around the finish line while enjoying a very yummy and homemade pie! This being a USCSA/MCSA event, there were plenty of collegiate skiers from all around the midwest and they brought a lot of good energy. Making the age group podium won me a pie server in what was a lively and boisterous awards ceremony! The event was, in a word, fun. And so were the trails which gave me a small taste of what one might feel while skiing up Alpe Cermis in Tour de Ski. I can’t wait to explore these trails during a normal/regular Winter!!


Carpe Skiem!

Thanks be to

the rejections and opportunities life has brought my way, event folks (organizers, sponsors, volunteers, timers, law enforcement officials, photographers, fellow participants and spectators) and my family of good friends, mentors and coaches in and outside of my community for all the unexpected, undeserved and unrewarded acts of kindness and constant encouragement as well as offerings of constructive criticism to improve myself as a human and an athlete. I am eternally grateful to all those who let me train with them, who shared their meals and experiences with me, who helped keep me in good health, who helped me stay the course, and who cheered me on from home or along the course.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.