Alpenglow 20k: An Old Race with a New Twist

Racers at Alpenglow 20k

Physically distanced racers chose to start together at the Alpenglow 20k Race

Racing On Your Own Time

The Alpenglow 20K has been a fixture race at Tahoe Cross Country almost as long as there has been a Tahoe XC, with good reason. It provides lots of ups and downs as it highlights the ski area’s best trails such as Gold, Silver, Bronze and Purple. This year it came with a new twist that, to this old racer, might have been the best change ever. You could race it on your own any time between February 19-22nd.

Over the years I’ve taken on the Alpenglow 20k several times and while I’ve always enjoyed the experience, it’s also a heady reminder of what happens to normal people during a ski race. Once tossed into the midst of a crowd of racers I ski harder than I should, deluding myself that I can keep up with those who are much fitter than me. This mistake leads my technique to quickly dissolve from fluid and smooth to flailing and exhausting. I usually bonk halfway up Gold, and then am holding on for dear life the rest of the race.

Slow Down To Speed Up

This year’s format, however, might be just what my doctor ordered. Racing just against the clock on your own time and pace instead of being in the midst of the busy kerfuffle of racers actually slowed me down, which in reality sped me up.

A few years ago, I skied the Alpenglow 20k and was quite exhausted by the end of the race. A few days later I went out on a steady, but leisurely ski around the same course. I had a great time, felt good at the end, even stopped to take a couple pictures and talk to friends. When I returned to the lodge I realized I was just two minutes slower than my race time, and a hell of a lot happier. Without the pressure to attempt to keep up with people I couldn’t realistically keep up with I was actually skiing with good skating technique instead of a slobbering mess.

Just What the Doctor Ordered

This year’s Alpenglow 20k, with its new 4-day format of independent racing, really was just what the doctor ordered: a chance to get healthy, outdoor exercise while staying physically distanced from others. Heck, it even raised our competitive spirit! With some 70 participants, Tahoe Cross Country Ski Education Association raised over $2,500 dollars for their youth programs. Thank you to all who participated.