Elkhorn Classic: Designed to be Ďa lot of funí

By Dick Mason, The Observer January 11, 2011 02:28 pm
The annual Nordic event is becoming one of the longest running cross country skiing competitions in Eastern Oregon. It will be conducted for the 12th consecutive year Saturday. Few current competitive cross country events in Eastern Oregon have been run longer, according to Dick Knowles, manager of the Nordic Center at the Anthony Lakes Ski Area.

This year’s Elkhorn Classic consists of two races over a 6-kilometer course that covers portions of the Lower Francy trail, Anthony Loop, Lilly Pad Loop and Black Lake Loop. The first ski event is a classic race that starts at 10 a.m. Skiers must ski with diagonal strides in classic races.

The second ski event is a skating or freestyle ski race beginning at 1:30 p.m. Competitors in freestyle events are allowed to use any technique.

The Elkhorn Classic is a pursuit, which means competitors’ times in both races will be combined and final standings tabulated based on their two clockings. Skiers also have the option of competing in just one race.

A snowshoe race will be conducted in conjunction with the Elkhorn Classic. The snowshoe competition, which starts at 10 a.m., will cover a 5-kilometer, out-and-back trail to Black Lake. At the lake, competitors will pick up a medallion, which they must present to officials at the finish line to prove that they completed the course. The snowshoe race is not officially part of the Elkhorn Classic.

The entry fee for each of the three races, which all start at the Anthony Lakes Nordic Center, is $10 per event. In addition, a season pass or a Nordic day pass is required.

Competitors who forget a piece of equipment will not be out of luck since gear will be available for sale or rent at the Anthony Lakes Nordic Center.

Sponsors of the Elkhorn Classic include the Anthony Lakes Nordic Center; FCI, Inc.; Dusty Dog Studios; Madshus, Hammer Nutrition and Baker City Safeway.

Knowles alters the Elkhorn Classic course each year. The route this year is less difficult than those of years past.

“It is very fast,’’ Knowles said.

The course features long, flat stretches plus some minor downhill and uphill portions. Knowles had one primary objective when he designed the course.

“I wanted it to be a lot of fun,’’ he said.

This is the attitude he tries to bring to every aspect of the Elkhorn Classic.

“I keep in mind that it is a fun event and I want to keep it that way,’’ Knowles said.

An experienced Nordic ski racer, Knowles said it is important that skiers always remember that they are at 7,000 feet at the Anthony Lakes Ski Area. The air is thus much thinner than they may used to to exercising at.

“You want to be careful not to go out too fast,’’ Knowles said.

Some competitive skiers train at high altitude sites like Anthony Lakes to improve their condition since working out in thin air provides an “altitude training effect’’ that improves one’s endurance.

Knowles said sustained slow sustained exercise at high elevations gives the skier an altitude benefit. People participating in events like the Elkhorn Classic over a period of time gain such a benefit.

The Elkhorn Classic is put on each year by Knowles as a way of promoting cross country skiing. He describes it as an ideal activity because it burns a high number of calories and uses a large number of muscle groups.

The popularity of cross country skiing has increased in North America over the past 15 years, Knowles said. He attributes this to its appeal to the baby boomer generation since it is a low-velocity activity that is not expensive.

Additional information on the Elkhorn Classic is available at the Anthony Lakes website — www.anthonylakes.com.