Skiers Mix Downhill & Cross Country at 69th Stowe Derby

By Staci DaSilva |

Published 02/23 2014 05:51PM

Updated 02/23 2014 06:50PM

STOWE, Vt. -

It was a beautiful day in Stowe for a downhill, cross country race. Sound like an oxymoron? It's not.

It's all part of the fun at the Stowe Derby.

1 hour and 18 minutes. That's how long it took Brandon Rist to ski from the top of Mt. Mansfield, the highest point in Vermont, to downtown Stowe during Sunday's 69th Annual Stowe Derby.

This was done on skate skis, which Rist was using for only the third time.

“It was difficult, yea. The downhill sections are a little harrowing,” said Brandon Rist. “Some of the flat parts, we were getting a lot of sun and were pretty slow and slushy and sticky."

Skate skis are cross-country skis without any edges. Basically, they make you go faster and require a different technique.

“Part of the fun is being out of control all the down. if I was on alpine skis it wouldn't be quite as much excitement,” said Rist.

What makes the Stowe Derby so unique is the downhill factor. Skiers descend over 3,000 feet to end up at the finish line.

The skiers start atop Mt. Mansfield, head down the toll road, across city streets before ending up at the end of the Stowe Recreation Path.

“It's a unique race, partly because it comes off the top of an alpine hill so it's all downhill,” explained Volunteer Tom Kendall. “But it's gorgeous and what a venue to have a race. This is a beautiful day."

Tom Kendall is a big fan of the Stowe Derby, so big that he volunteers to keep official track of the over 500 participants and their race times.

There's the skate ski race and the classical race, where skiers use regular cross-country skis.

Some compete in both races which means they skied more than 18 miles.

“They will do this course twice and we'll combine their times for a standings by what they call the Derby Meisters,” said Kendall.

At the top this year was Tim Reynolds of Winooski. He won both the skate ski and classical races.

“I didn't really have any expectations. But the downhill is really fun and you just sort of go as fast as you can and try not to fall," said Reynolds.

The Stowe Derby is put on by the Mt. Mansfield Ski Club.

Fun fact: it started back in 1945 as a bet between two skiers, an Austrian and a Norwegian. The bet challenged the skiers to ski from Mt. Mansfield down to Stowe without changing skis.

And an event was born!

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