Image and text by Danielle Baker
This past weekend, over a hundred racers took part in FrostBike and wound up performing something akin to Bambi on ice. I, myself, spent two days falling down the ski hill, trying to capture some of the action, and not get spotted while peeing in the trees.
The event attracted a solid group of BC Cup regulars and, with the race season still three months away, it was a great excuse to hang out, ride bikes, and punctuate every other sentence with a high-five. This was the kind of rowdy, pre-season event that had the pros out at the bar until close the night before the race. It was a weekend more about bonding than about winning, more about bananas, beers, and hugs than about medals and cash prizes. Although, there were cash prizes to be had.
The big debate about studded tires, fat bikes, or skinny jeans being best for racing on snow, became a moot point when everyone took hits at practice on Saturday. The conditions were warm and slushy and, for most, the challenge wasn't about keeping your feet on your pedals as much as it was just staying upright.
Ruts multiplied all over the course like a choose your own adventure book where ninety percent of the adventures ended in a snowy face wash. In the wet, melting snow, the racers sounded like a herd of angry elephants as they slowly realized that their brakes were essentially useless. Most riders were dragging their feet for speed control and one girl flew past me exclaiming 'my feet don't touch the ground!'
Snowboarders and skiers added to the colorful mix with some original and not so original heckling from the lifts. They yelled everything from 'PEDAL!' and 'Why don't you try skiing?' to 'Do it for the honey ham!' and of course provided an ever so supportive round of applause whenever someone ate shit within view of the lift, which was all the time.
The racecourse was put together on SilverStar's blue run, Milky Way. Bikes were loaded onto a trailer and pulled to the start line with a SnowCat while racers took the Summit Chair to the top. Ski Patrol monitored the course and took time between sections of racers to side slip it in an attempt to groom the course throughout practice. The mountain even efficiently switched the course over to night skiing between practice on Saturday and race runs on Sunday. There was a lot of speculation overnight about what the conditions would be like the next day. Would it freeze? What would the fast times be? Would there be any major injuries? Would anyone make the jumps? With the unknown conditions, it was anyone's race… might as well have a beer or nine.
Sunday morning came with cold wind and snow. The course was fast. Racers seemed to be more upright than in the snow and, inversely, I was on my ass more than on my feet. Brett Tippie joined us as the MC at the finish line, conducting interviews from the 'Frost Seat' and riling up the crowd. With two snow jumps at the finish, FrostBike drew a crowd despite the cold; there was even a girl in heels. You know your skill hill event is a success when there is a girl in heels in the snow!
The resort and event organizer did a fantastic job of creating a grass roots feel and culture around a race run within the hoops of ski hill restrictions and structure. There was an all-hands-on-deck volunteer feel and I only had to sign away my life twice to be allowed on the mountain to shoot. All in all, it was a perfectly timed and well-executed race that ignited excitement for the coming race season.
Yann Gauvin took the win in Elite Men and had the fastest time of the day, with sub 52 seconds, but at a race like this, the thing I remember best about Yann is his mullet. Mullet for the win!