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Stowe Derby drama this weekend

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Want a break from watching the Winter Olympics to witness the oldest ski race in the country live in person? Well, the 65th Stowe Derby is this Sunday.

What started as a rival race between a Norwegian and an Austrian back in 1945 has become one of the most revered races in skiing – a true test of ski versatility. Equipment has evolved since Austrian Sepp Ruschp (Stowe’s first ski school director) and Norwegian Erling Strom first tackled this endurance test (Ruschp won, by the way), but the essence of the Derby remains. The 10-mile course descends Stowe’s alpine ski slopes to the Nordic Center and then the length of Stowe’s recreational path to the finish in Stowe village.

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The Derby now draws over 1,000 competitors of all ages. Racers must use the same skis for the entire course with a vertical descent of 3,000 feet. Top competitors complete the grueling race from Mt Mansfield to Stowe village in about 45 minutes.

If you have never seen the historical Derby, picture, Olympics skier cross as throngs charge down Stowe’s twisting Toll Road on squirrely Nordic skis. Then it’s all out cross-country combat (like the biathlon) to town. Skin-tight suits and skinny skis are the attire, and mass pile ups are part of the high Alpine, high stakes.

The Stowe Derby now includes a more family-friendly (and supposedly “fun”) race on a short course, along 6 kilometers of flat terrain for kids and parents. It’s sure to be an exciting weekend in Stowe. I’ll be watching between runs on Stowe’s more relaxed Sunrise and Lord trails.

For more of Heather’s ski tips and trips go to www.familyskitrips.com. Photos by Greg Burke.


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