Randonnee Rally comes down to seven seconds 

Whistler patroller wins women's recreational category

In the end, after 1,375 metres (4,583 feet) of climbing and slightly more descending through Whistler’s alpine terrain, just seven seconds and a little bit of strategy were all that separated the top two men.

Greg Hill of Revelstoke had won the Whistler Randonnee Rally event for the past three years, and came into this year’s competition looking to make it four.

Without the same level of fitness as past years – only about 35 days of ski touring so far in 2005-06 compared to about 50 days by the same time last year – Hill decided to use strategy rather than fitness to win the day.

In past years he has always led the way, breaking trail for the other competitors, and this year he decided to let other skiers break trail for him, then use his downhill skiing skills to pull ahead near the end.

"Did it pan out? It doesn’t look like it," said Hill. "I let (winner Carey Smith) get ahead, and got lost for a bit behind before catching up. I had a better fitness level last year for sure, but I always assumed my downhill skills were a little better and I could make up the gap, but his skills were pretty good too. I almost caught him."

Hill, who recently became a father, doesn’t intend to race any of the other events in the eight-event Randonnee Rally series this year. Instead, he will help to organize a ski touring event like the Randonnee Rally at Sunshine Village Resort outside of Banff.

"My internal coach took the fall off," he said. "There’s a 24 hour race in Aspen I want to do, but that’s pretty much it for competing."

Hill also reached a personal goal last year by ski touring 40,000 vertical feet in a single day.

The winner, Carey Smith of Jackson Hole, called the race a nail-biter.

"Racing is always stressful, and this one was really close – Greg was right there the whole time," said Smith. "But if it isn’t Greg Hill, it’s Chris Kroger, or Steve Romeo, or any of these guys. Someone else steps up each week, and the races are really close.

"If the slightest thing happened it could be a different race. You have to be strong but you have to think your way through the descents, the transitions. A lot of factors go into it – you drop a glove, drop a skin, come out of your binding, and then spend 10 seconds futzing with it, and guys will go by you."

Smith is a member of the U.S. Ski Mountaineering Association team that is heading to the World Championships in Spain this February. He says he is training hard with his teammates, but they still don’t expect to finish with any medals against European racers that have been competing on a far more established randonnee racing series.

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