Season End News from the U.S. Masters

NM2019 Rocky Mountain High

The 2019 AXCS National Masters held in conjunction with the traditional Alley Loop Nordic Marathon weekend in Crested Butte, Colorado promised big fun from the start -- and delivered in spades.

For any member not able to attend this year, please make a mental note to bucket list the Alley Loop at some point in the coming years. Yes, I grant you that racing at 9000 feet is uncomfortable for even moderate altitude skiers like myself. Sure, there will be a level of “what the heck am I doing” for low landers. But trust me, the fun and beauty of this event and location will more than make up for the temporary lack of oxygen.

Just take the start line. There’s former AXCS Board member Murray Banks cracking jokes on a snowed-in main drag pointing to a literal start line formed with rubber chickens. Yep, that’s right. Rubber chickens mark the start of this ASM event. If you can’t have fun after you see that, you are taking this sport far too seriously.

The course itself is mostly gently rolling terrain through adjacent meadows mixed with passes through downtown Crested Butte using mostly snowed-in alleys that make the race morning just as goofy as it sounds like. There’s a few climbs along the way that’ll provide enough racing challenge to make diehards happy while enough distance optoins to make any age/ability comfortable. Make your plans to do this one at some point folks!

The Saturday, February 2 NM2019 freestyle Alley Loop races went off on a crystal clear and quite frigid morning that warmed nicely by mid-day. Happy masters from across the nation joined the traditional Rocky Mountain gang as well as surprisingly large contingent of USCSA college skiers for a great day.

Because the weather gods love to bring on the weather for classic races, the Sunday, February 3 classic events had several inches of fresh snow and some blustery winds added to the altitude mix. A hardy gang of NM skiers braved the conditions on a fun rolling terrain course entirely separate of the Alley Loop trails.

Complete results for both events are currently linked from the main index page of

Many thanks to the Crested Butte Nordic Center, Murray and Jane Banks, the Southwest Nordic gang, and all the other volunteers/sponsors that contributed to the success of the NM2019!


The Minneapolis Pay-off

A year ago in the Spring Digest I broke down how hosting the MWC2018, despite a lower-than-hoped-for turnout, proved to be a vital catalyst in the big picture development of Theodore Wirth Park’s XC ski event infrastructure.

The hope was always that T-Wirth would someday be able to leverage that development to host additional big-time events in America’s biggest urban concentration of ski energy. Well, “someday” turns out to be a whole lot closer folks -- like just 11 months away!

On March 17, 2020 a bonafide full throttle FIS World Cup sprint event is coming to no other than Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis. The same exact trails that the MWC2018 helped build will allow USA superstars like Jessie, Sadie, Sophie, etc. to have the first chance a real World Cup with a legitimately full international field since your’s truly was part of the USA nation’s group contingent in the December 1989 World Cup weekend at Mountain Dell Golf Course outside Salt Lake City, Utah.

This is going to be an incredible event and one well worth catching in person if you are anywhere close to the Twin Cities or at least watching on television. Just imagining the grin on Jessie Diggins face as the Minnesota-native gets a World Cup race on home snow gives a guy chills. Note also for MWC2020 skiers it’s not crazy to think about routing your flights home for a short Twin Cities stopover!

Here’s to a great season everyone and a sincere hope we’ll have plenty of snow to enjoy next season as well. Stay safe and well this spring/summer!

Bend/Oregon, April 2019

John (J.D.) Downing