New England Masters Ski Racing descended upon Mittersill at Cannon Mountain in Franconia, New Hampshire, for the 84th annual Hochgebirge Challenge Cup.
On a day that topped out at 7°, racers formed teams, and competed for the right to have their names on a trophy that resembled the Stanley Cup.
The Hochgebirge Challenge began in 1931, running continuously except for a few years because of war and lack of snow, and is recognized as the longest running team event in the US. The race has been an Olympic qualifier event, a National Championship, a National Championship qualifier event, and most recently, the qualifier for the Masters National Championship. The trophy is spectacular and makes you want to kiss it just like the Stanley Cup.
This was the first race of the season on the Taft training hill at Mittersill with the trail only opening that day. With the world class Mitteresill Performance Center to warm up between runs and a firm surface that gave racers the time of their life, you can see why Bodie Miller still calls Cannon home.
The Challenge cup is accompanied by three individual awards – the Alec Bright trophy, awarded to the fastest man on the winning team – the Clarita Heath trophy, awarded to the fastest woman on the winning team, and the Michael Harding award for the fastest woman’s team. Alec Wright and his future wife, Clarita Heath, raced on the first U.S. Olympic alpine ski team in the 1936 Olympics. Both are members of the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame.
The Michael Harding award was won by the team Ronnie’s Rockets, which consisted of Patti Lane, Becka Padgett and Margaret Vaughn, racing in memory of Ronnie Berlack, one of two U.S. Ski Development team members who died in an avalanche while skiing near their European training base in the Austrian Alps. Berlack of Franconia, New Hampshire, was described as “perhaps the next generation of great athletes to come out of the Granite State (think Bode Miller and Leanne Smith),” according to the U.S. Ski Team’s website. His parents were long time competitors in the Hochgebirge Challenge.
The three women racers brought in a combined time of 3:22.45 to gain the victory. Becka Padgett would also go on to receive the Clarita Heath trophy as the fastest woman racer, finishing 8th in the combined field with two runs totaling 1:30.94.
Matt Dodge continued his reign atop the pyramid etching his name once more on the Alec Bright trophy as the fastest man on his winning team, the Scary Larry’s, the winners of the 84th annual Hochgebirge Challenge Cup. Dodge’s blistering time of 1:19.70 helped bring his team to the forefront. Teammates Kyle Anderson, Lee Ormiston, and Bruce Pratt finished third, sixth and fourteenth overall.
This was my second Hochgebirge Challenge Cup and I am enamored with the history of skiing in the northeast. Last year’s Hochgebirge race took place on “Gary’s” trail with Ernie’s Haus, located at the finish line, as our historical setting, named in memory of Ernst Eric Glaessel, who died while serving in the US Navy. This year’s event with the impressive Mitteresill Performance Center as our base and award venue, provided a look into the future of ski racing. Mittersill was named an official training site of the U.S. Ski Team in 2015, and the the 9,200 square foot MPC opened for the 2021-22 season. It’s great to have a lodge dedicated to ski racers.
On Friday, January 19th, Masters held a 2x GS race at Waterville Valley in New Hampshire. This race is always one of my favorites to photograph and attend. Waterville has always been high on my list of mountains for terrain I enjoy, and Tommy’s World Cup Run is a favorite pitch. I have seen some amazing racers on that trail including Paula Moltzan at the US Nationals in Alpine Skiing on March 23, 2019.
Waterville is upping the ante with the moguls and dual moguls FIS World Cups event slated for Jan. 26-27, 2024, on Lower Bobby’s Run. At 246 meters long with a pitch of 28 degrees, the eastern-facing course is world-class and will make for a high level of competition.
“Waterville Valley Resort is honored to host the upcoming 2024 and 2025 World Cup and continue our partnership with U.S. Ski & Snowboard. Having a World Cup event back in New Hampshire after the resort last hosted a World Cup race in 1991 is extremely exciting, ” said Tim Smith, President and General Manager of Waterville Valley Resort.
The new WVBBTS Competition Center at Waterville was our base during the Masters race. The new building above a new lift gives racers a convenient space between runs, and though not quite completed, we saw the same type of advances visible in the MPC at Cannon. Racing is living well in New Hampshire.