Nordic skiers flock to inaugural Rabbit Ears Pass ski race | SteamboatToday.com

Nordic skiers flock to inaugural Rabbit Ears Pass ski race

Austin Colbert

— Tyler Kjorstad almost didn't come. The 30-year-old Wyoming resident is a math teacher at Laramie County Community College, and it took a last-minute decision to get him to Steamboat Springs on Sunday to compete in the inaugural Rabbit Ears Pass Marathon cross country ski race.

Now that it's finished, Kjorstad isn't regretting his final choice.

"I was on the fence all week long," he said. "It was spectacular … I've done a couple of races here. It's always a really pretty place to visit."

Kjorstad, who used to compete in Nordic skiing for the College of St. Scholastica in his native state of Minnesota, won Sunday's 34-kilometer race — the longest race offered — with a time of 1 hour, 49 minutes, 6.2 seconds. The course start and finish was located near the Steamboat Snowmobile Tours headquarters on the west side of Rabbit Ears Pass, with the 34K course requiring two identical 17K laps.

"It was a great course. It's gorgeous," Kjorstad said. "I'd say rolling hills, with some really long, steady climbs. Some really fun downhills that you can just haul on, and then there's a headwall."

The course featured a hefty hill toward the end, a challenge Kjorstad relished. He hadn't competed in a race since February, but remained in shape by recreationally skiing back home. There was plenty of competition for Kjorstad, who won the race by only 90 seconds over Steamboat Springs resident T.J. Thrasher.

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Taking third in the 34K race was Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athlete Simon Zink. The top female finisher was Steamboat's Katie Lindquist, who took 12th overall of 34 finishers.

"There is some pride," Kjorstad said about winning. "But, I got to tell you, I think everyone that prepared the course and did all the work organizing this should have a lot of pride, because it's a really great race."

Nearly 80 people completed the course, which included 5K, 10K, 17K and 34K races. As popular as Nordic skiing is in Steamboat, late-season races are still hit-and-miss in the area. Sunday's Rabbit Ears Pass Marathon evolved, in a way, out of the North Routt Glide the Divide and Coureur des Bois events, which last ran in 2014.

"There certainly is a home for this race, and for the legacy of the Coureur, which is now at the Home Ranch," Thrasher said. "Both of these hold a unique spot in Colorado right now in there aren't very many late races like this."

Tyler Scholl won the 17K race in 51:29.6, edging out Jimmy Colfer and Justin Fosha. Tabor Scholl won the women's portion of the 17K race, taking eighth overall out of 36 finishers with a time of 59:03.1.

Todd Siefken won the 10K race in 49:04.9, followed closely by Tess Arnone, the only female competitor. Reilly Mewborn, 14, was the overall 5K winner in 21:25.9.

"This is a great way to send it out, for sure," Thrasher said of the end of the winter season. "The course is absolutely amazing. Of course, we've had a great snow year. But even, I think, on a year where the snow is not as strong, we'd still be able to hold a good race."

To reach Austin Colbert, call 970-871-4204, email acolbert@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Austin_Colbert