Placing first in all 4 events, John Gaston showed that he is ready to head to the World Championships...
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In New Mexico this past weekend, La Sportiva Ski athlete John Gaston quietly blew up the US Ski Mountaineering world. Taking 1st place in all 4 events, Gaston showed that he is at the top of his game and ready to head to Europe for the World Championships.
Driving down from the front range on Friday, Joe Risi, director of Cosmic Ski Mountaineering crossed the Colorado/New Mexico border to the “smell of piñon pine wood fires, red/green burritos, and the intense sun that lets you know you’re in a special place.”
On the Friday night vertical race, Gaston recounts that it “was a bit of a junk show. I don't know if the legs were feeling the long car trip or what, but it was brutal and I barely hung on, winning by just 7 seconds ahead of Rory [Kelly].”
Risi, who helped sets course ahead of racers said, “the base elevation is already a lung-searing 10,350 feet, which leaves racers dazed and confused amidst the orange glow of the sunset. John [Gaston] conquered the 12,075 foot summit, 1,725 foot vertical drop, in 24.36 minutes to take the first win of the evening.” What a great way to stretch the legs after a long car ride.
The next day, Gaston woke to fresh legs and was ready to ski! He recounts, “luckily Saturday morning rolled around and I was on top of it. The Individual race was a bit on the short side, but the course was decently technical and I just went for it right from the gun.” Risi and the Cosmic Series rely heavily on their venues to support the growing trend of skimo racing and uphill skiing in general. He gave the resort high regards saying, “The Ski Santa Fe Resort owner & ski mountaineer, Ben Abruzzo, took charge for the weekend not only hosting racers but personally setting an intense individual course for racers to navigate.” Even with a tough course, Gaston ended up winning by almost seven and a half minutes in a race that lasted just over an hour.
Barely taking a moment to rest and let the skins dry, Gaston, “rallied over to Taos for the Sprint race that evening.” He admits, “Sprints are not my strong suit and I generally avoid them whenever possible, but I had this carrot in the back of my mind about sweeping the whole weekend and so I had to try.” Risi describes the event with “600 feet vertical gain course with a 250 foot bootpack. Time trial format of racers left the start line in 30 second intervals. The men's field was stacked with the top ski mountaineering racers in the country. John Gaston, Max Taam, Scott Archer, Rob Krar, Rory Kelly, and Jack Linehan advanced into the finals. When all was said and done Gaston bested the field in the finals with a time of 3:33 minutes.” Gaston says time trials “hurt so much and I always want to quit about 2 minutes in”, but he’s glad he didn’t.
Gaston was feeling the momentum, even as the deep fatigue of the weekend set in. On Sunday, he “partnered up with Max (per usual). The course was really hard and super technical.” Risi worked with “the newly created Taos Avalanche Center, directed under former Taos ski patroller, Andy Bond [who] created the course over several weeks.”
Gaston and Taam throttled through “Hundreds of kick turns on steep, often glazed and icy terrain, with legit skiing on the descents. All in all there were 7 climbs with 5 boot packs and 2 via ferrata/ascender fixed rope sections. It was legit!” Risi explained, ”The final ski descent off Taos' Kachina peak at 12,480 feet left a 3,250 foot descent from the blue finish line and cold beer. Team STRAFE with members Max Taam & John Gaston honed in their quad-busting home mountain training at Aspen Highlands to tuck into the finish and capture the win in a time of 3 hours and 25 minutes.We wish him the best in just a few short days representing Team USA at the ISMF World Championship in Transcavallo, Italy!
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