The Tahoe Rim Tour is a unique race in that it offers separate divisions for snowshoe running, classic nordic skiing (striding), and freestyle skiing (skating). Classic skiers start early in order to enjoy tracks undisturbed by other users. Skaters and snowshoe runners start together 30 minutes later.
I have skied this race twice before in the classic division, but this year I chose to “cheat” and enter in the skate division. When I did pass a classic skier or snowshoer, I was almost giddy with delight at my decision to skate the course. I had so much fun that it’s unlikely that I’ll do it on classic skis again!
The point-to-point course starts on the trails of the Tahoe XC center, though parking and the race start are at North Tahoe High School. Racers climb through Tahoe Cross Country and up the Fiberboard Freeway along The Great Ski Race route. After the aid station at Starratt Pass (a.k.a. the soup station), the course heads east along the Tahoe Rim and finally into the Northstar Cross Country Center. (Both ski areas generously donate their services, as this race is a fundraiser for Far West Nordic Junior programs.)
At Northstar, snowshoe runners complete a 21 kilometer tour (a half marathon), while skiers make an additional loop to total almost 26 kilometers. Click here for my GPS tracks of the Tahoe Rim Tour (ski) course. From the Northstar Cross Country Center, racers can take the gondola down to the village or ski down the alpine run. Shuttle buses take skiers back to their cars in Tahoe City.
All things considered, I prefer this event to The Great Ski Race, primarily because I like the course better. The descent from Starratt Pass into Northstar is much calmer and the snow conditions are invariably better than The Great Ski Race’s descent all the way into Truckee. I also appreciate the Tahoe Rim Tour’s smaller field and separate racing divisions and starts.
After racing and blogging about it three weekends in a row, I have come to realize that all of our local Tahoe nordic race courses are beautiful. It is almost redundant to state that a Tahoe race is beautiful, but each has its own special brand of beauty. For the Tahoe Rim Tour, the 850-foot descent through the forest is a wonderful time to take a heard-earned breather and enjoy your surroundings.
For more information about the race, I recommend that you view the Tahoe Rim Tour web page, where you can scroll down for detailed course information and maps.
My Race Recap
I originally wasn’t sure if I would make it this race. With the memorial run on Saturday, and a wedding on Sunday afternoon, the weekend was already pretty full. However, it looked like I might have a conflict for The Great Ski Race this year, so I wanted to be sure to make it up Starratt Pass at least once this year.
Deciding to skate instead of stride simplified matters. In the past, worrying about my kick wax has caused me tremendous race-day stress. Skating also helped assure that I would make it to the wedding on time. I rode to Tahoe City with ski pal Jody and her daughter, who would skate the Tour together.
I had waxed my skate skis on Friday night (two days before the race). After hitting it too cold for the last race, I decided to go on the warm side for the Tour. I’ve had a number of people tell me this year, “If you’re going to miss the wax, it’s better to be too cold.” This may be true, but it’s better not too miss it in the first place. I was lucky and my wax seemed spot on. I tended to pull ahead of the other skiers on the (few) flats and descents.
I was more relaxed at the race start than I have been in a while, owing to a couple of different factors. First, all the “hard core” racers had left for the classic ski division 30 minutes earlier – as this race has a special emphasis on classic skiing. Second, after a 15-mile trail run the day before, I didn’t exactly expect to set any time records. Finally, though the start corral is plenty wide, the course has a narrow turn to the right and there was a bit of congestion for the first kilometer or so. I didn’t mind this – it’s actually nice to have the pace slowed a bit before an hour of hard climbing.
And climb we did. The big climb starts at about 8km, where the course climbs 900 feet over 6km. I could feel a small train of skiers behind me, and kept wondering when someone would pass – I felt a little bit of pressure to set the pace. I finally let the gal behind me know that she was welcome to go ahead anytime, when she asked my name and told me that our mutual friend had instructed her to try to keep up with me! I realized she was just hanging on and relaxed the pace as well as my mood.
We hit a rare bit of congestion about a kilometer from the top: a tired skate skier ahead, a classic skier on the right and two snowshoe runners on the left. I verbally encouraged everyone behind me to slow down for a minute, as I certainly didn’t want to get tangled in the young skater’s poles. After that point I had the trails to myself for the rest of the race.
The long descent to Northstar is fairly straight and smooth sailing. Here I was so happy to be skating and felt a comfort and confidence that I haven’t felt on the more technical descents in the last two ski races. In short, it was pure bliss. Then the bubble burst as there are a couple of climbs on the Northstar trails before the final switchbacked descent to the finish.
I finished strong with a smile and had to be on my merry way before the awards and raffle. Thanks to my awesome hubby for kid and transportation support! It was refreshing to leave without thinking about my placement, but I am always sad to miss the raffle. Official timing and lunch continues until 1:30 pm, so this is a great course for skiers and snowshoe runners of many abilities to enjoy a beautiful, challenging point-to-point tour. Whether you are looking to train for The Great Ski Race, or just a quieter alternative, I highly recommend the Tahoe Rim Tour.