Loppet skiers enjoy clear conditions

Sam Hewitt, right, of Essex Junction, Vermont, leads Gabriels resident Jennifer Perry during the Loppet at Mount Van Hoevenberg on Saturday. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

LAKE PLACID — Under crisp, clear skies that turned into brief periods of heavy snow Saturday, a few hundred skiers took on distances between 3 and 50 kilometers in the Lake Placid Loppet at Mount Van Hoevenberg.

The near-perfect conditions were a refreshing change from the past couple years when the race had to be canceled one year and postponed the next due to a lack of snow.

With a mass start at 9 a.m., the first group of racers took to the trails Saturday morning to tackle the classic cross-country ski course. The Loppet consisted of a series of races, with the two longest being 50K classic and skate ski, followed by 25K in both of those disciplines. In the afternoon, there were also citizen races with distances of 3K, 6.25K and 12.5K.

Racers came from around the Northeast, with every state in New England represented, as well as New York, Quebec and Ontario. Jon Ignatowski was the first 50k classic skier across the line, finishing the roughly 32-mile race in 3 hours, 9 minutes and 27.7 seconds. Arthur Mathisen (3:18:52.1), of Elmore, placed second, and Cadyville’s Stanley Hatch (3:25:38) took third.

In the 50K skate ski, Karl Saidla, of Chelsea, Quebec, claimed the top spot with a time of 2:29:28, and was followed across the line by Keene resident Ryan Atkins (2:34:21.5) and Lake Placid’s Robert Douglas (2:36:07.7) in third.

Saranac Lake’s Caroline Dodd exits the tunnel during the 25K Loppet at Mount Van Hoevenberg on Saturday. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

In the 25K classic, Middlebury, Vermont’s Jacob Volz (1:18:28.8) was the fastest skier, while Keene’s Jan Wellford (1:25:39.8) was second. Jonne Kahkonen (1:25:48.8) placed third. Heather Mooney, of Keene Valley, was fourth overall and the first female to cross the line in 1:30:45.8.

In the 25K skate ski, Lake Placid native and University of Vermont skier Karl Schulz took the top spot with a time of 1:15:55.9, and was quickly followed by Mathias Boudreau-Golfman (1:18:06.5) and Erik Lindahl (1:19:05.2).

Ignatowski, who as at Van Ho all last week in his role as an assistant coach for the Clarkson University cross-country ski team during the USCSA college championships, said it was perfect conditions for one of the longest races in the region.

“It was good; better than I thought it would be,” he said. “The thing about being a coach is you can’t really train as much, because you’re there for your athletes so I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. And then we lost all the snow in February and I didn’t get out to train as much.

“I took the first Porter Mountain loop easy and gauged how I felt, and then kept adding more and more speed after that. It definitely kicked my butt.”

Bill McKibben, an author from Ripton, Vermont, skis in Saturday’s 25K classic ski race at Mount Van Hoevenberg. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

Ignatowski said the Loppet is as much a mental challenge as it is physical.

“This is the toughest race I’ve ever done in my life. By the last 15K my shoulders, my arms were screaming, and all you do is just look at the next 10 meters and go from there.

“It’s such a long race that you have to be in it mentally the whole time. [But] it’s sunny, it’s beautiful, you can’t beat this. No matter how much pain you’re in, it’s worth it to be out there. If I had a heart attack and died out there, I would have died a happy man.”