The Yellowknife Multisport Club is off and running with its 2022 season and it kicked off with an event which we haven’t seen for a year or so.
And it ended up being one of the best in recent memory.
The Frostbite 50 returned to the trails on Saturday with more than 100 participants taking on the 50-km course. Last year’s event wasn’t held due to Covid-19 and it appeared everyone missed it, according to Ben Linaker, one of this year’s race directors.
“It was one of the better years we’ve had,” he said. “It was so gorgeous out that day and we saw a pretty big uptick in the registrations about a week before the event.”
Indeed, the conditions were some of the best ever. As opposed to the frigid temperatures which racers encountered back in 2020, this year saw temperatures going no lower than -10 C with overcast sky and a small dumping of snow.
Linaker said the conditions couldn’t have been better.
“Two years ago, the organizers delayed the race start for about an hour because it was just so cold first thing in the morning and they wanted to wait and see if it would warm up,” he said. “This year, there was no sun, perfect temperature, no huge risk of hypothermia or sunburn or frostbite — no pun intended — and it was just phenomenal.”
The event gave racers an option of either skiing or snowshoeing the course on their own or as part of a team of at least two. Everything kicked off from the start line at the Yellowknife Ski Club at 9 a.m. and racers made their way to four checkpoints along the way: Walsh Lake, Prosperous Lake, Cassidy Point and the Dettah ice road. Those in teams could tag off to teammates at checkpoints but not in between. Following the final checkpoint, it was a straight sprint back to the finish line at the ski club.
The men’s solo ski featured one of the closer finishes in the race’s history as Thomsen D’Hont and Mike Argue did battle for nearly the entire 50-km. No more than four minutes separated them as they went pole-for-pole but it would be D’Hont who would have enough left in the tank to beat Argue to the finish line by less than 30 seconds.
Argue said he spent most of the race trying to keep pace with D’Hont.
“After the first kilometre, he was putting some distance on me,” he said. “I knew that if I could pace it correctly, I could be able to keep up with him because 50-km is a long way.”
Both of them arrived at Walsh Lake at the same time but D’Hont managed to get to Prosperous Lake roughly three minutes ahead of Argue. That was increased to four minutes as Cassidy Point but Argue started making up time at the Dettah ice road, cutting D’Hont’s lead in half. Both ended up in the grandstand section of the ski club at around the same time but D’Hont was able to nip Argue at the line by around 29 seconds.
“Both of those guys were just incredible,” said Linaker. “They definitely set course records and Thomsen told me afterward that if Mike had an extra kilometre or two, he would’ve caught him.”
The women’s solo ski was won by Julia Gyapay, who finished around 10 minutes ahead of Shauna Morgan, while the team ski event saw The Scantigans, made up of Heather Scott and Julian Kanigan, finish first with Dawn Patrol — David Mahon, Clarinda Spijkerman and Natalie Lippa — finishing second.
Scott said she wasn’t expecting the duo to cross the finish line first.
“I don’t think we went in with any expectations other than to get through it,” she said. “I had a couple of injuries earlier this year and was ecstatic to have overcome them and ski properly again. We were just happy to participate, ski in these beautiful areas outside of town, and wanted to support the return of this unique event.”
She also said the course played out nicely, especially given the chance to glide in some areas because of the above-normal temperatures.
“Some snow fell in the days leading up to the race, so some of the trails and lakes were definitely a bit soft,” she said. “There are a few steep portages on the course that can be a bit slick, so the powder rendered them a bit less scary. But overall, the warm temps provided a decent glide which was definitely appreciated.”
There was just one snowshoe outfit and they were the Javarunners, consisting of Brandon Pludwinski, Andrea Giesbrecht, Austin Marshall, Nicole Veerman and Len MacDonald. They finished the course in a little more than eight hours.
“Snowshoeing brings its own challenges,” said Linaker. “You don’t get the gliding aspect that you do in skiing and you’re constantly moving. It’s just incredible athleticism to be able to do that for as long as they would have.”
Putting on an event of this magnitude takes a fair few volunteers and Linaker said there was plenty of help all day long.
“We had about 25 people manning the checkpoints, Yellowknife Search and Rescue helped out with the set-up of the course and the Great Slave Snowmobile Association was patrolling the trails making sure everyone was safe,” he said. “Big thanks to all of those who helped make it an amazing day.”
Here are the top three finishers in each division (in hours and minutes):
Men’s solo ski
1st — Thomsen D’Hont, 3:26:00
2nd — Mike Argue, 3:36:30
3rd — Moses Hernandez, 4:31:00
Women’s solo ski
1st — Julia Gyapay, 6:00:00
2nd — Shauna Morgan, 6:10:00
3rd — Danielle Stachiw, 6:30:00
1st — Javarunners (Brandon Pudlinski, Andrea Giesbrecht, Austin Marshall, Nicole Veerman and Len MacDonald), 8:07:00
1st — Scantigans (Heather Scott and Julian Kanigan), 5:23:00
2nd — Dawn Patrol (David Mahon, Clarinda Spijkerman and Natalie Lippa), 5:52:00
3rd — Sean Shaun (Sean McGee and Shaun Doherty), 5:58:00
source: Yk Multisport Club