Kicking off Red’s Kokanee Spring Fest in style was the first annual Redhead Randonnée Race, a ski mountaineering competition that combined both an uphill skin up Red Mountain’s Dale’s Trail and Sally’s Alley to the peak, with a ski down The Cliff to base.
A handful of hardy athletes arrived Saturday morning equipped with touring gear, backcountry skills, and big lungs, but Brace Lee took the cake.
He crushed the uphill, ripped the transition to downhill mode, and screamed down the Face of Red to cross the finish line in a total of 35 minutes.
Other competitors, athletes all, took an hour to complete the same circuit.
It was already a special day for Brace: His win also marks his 100th day of ski touring this season.
Veteran randonnée racer Karen Reader, who placed first among the women, remarked that “Red Mountain is a great location for this event because the ratio of uphill to downhill is perfect.”
Reader gained much of her randonnée racing experience at Crested Butte, Colo., where an annual event commemorates 19th century postal worker Al Johnson who delivered mail on skis to remote mining camps.
Rossland also has a long history of backcountry ski racing, including the famed Grey Mountain Grind in the 1940s that involved a skin up Grey and a ski back to town.
The Redhead Randonnée may be a first step towards a revival of the Grey Mountain Grind tradition, which could get Red Mountain included in the Alpine Club of Canada’s sanctioned randonnée race circuit, an event well-suited to Rossland’s strong backcountry culture.
Red’s Mika Hakkola said he hoped the word gets out about this year’s randonnée to attract more of Rossland’s hard core of ski tourers when the event is held again next year.