By Betty Vanderwielen

Chipping Away Toward Perfection


Betty Vanderwielen, Pathfinder

On Jan. 30 the OSCR will hold its 34th cross country ski race. Here a skier from one of the previous races passes under the Finish banner.

SEELEY LAKE – Faster speed and greater accuracy are the goals Lynn Carey has set for the 34th Over Seeley's Creeks and Ridges (OSCR) cross-country ski race at the Seeley Creek Trail System Jan. 30. Carey is not referring to bettering his personal ski score. Instead, as Vice President of the Seeley Lake Nordic Ski Club (SLNSC) and Race Director for the OSCR [pronounced Oscar], Carey is inaugurating a new streamlined method for providing faster and more accurate OSCR score results for all skiers.

Carey said that throughout the years, despite determined efforts to devise better methods of timing participants as they crossed the finish line, errors inevitably crept in. And as the number of racers increased, so did the potential for increased error. Sometimes it was the fault of the participant who mistakenly entered the wrong race event or had his or her bib in a position that was difficult to read. Sometimes it stemmed from the volunteer race timers reading the number wrong or missing someone when a group of skiers all crossed at the same time. Many times it was because volunteer timers were harried by skiers asking to know their race time as soon as they crossed the finish line. Carey attributes all the mistakes to human error. So this year he is inaugurating electronic scoring.

Carey hired a group from Whitefish, Mont. called Competitive Timing. Their tag line is "accurate results – every time." Each racer's packet will contain an ankle band carrying a chip with a unique ID number. A receiving unit will be buried in the snow spanning the start/finish line. The chip will signal when a skier has started and will record the time when the wearer crosses the finish line. In addition, a computer in the yurt will also receive the timing results, so skiers will be able to get their race times immediately by going to the yurt.

Competitive Timing also provides generators and a public address system. Seeley Lake resident Chris Jewett has agreed to act as announcer. She will have access to a computer giving details about the skiers as they cross the finish line.

Competitive Timing charges approximately $1,000 for their services. To help cover the cost, registration fees for all racers were increased by $5.

Race lengths this year are 50 kilometer (K), 20K, 10K, and a 5K race for children under age 15.

The mid-length race, which has sometimes been a 30K, sometimes a 25K, will be a 20K this year. Carey said that he is resurrecting a course used years ago when the 50K was a two-loop trail. That course proved impractical because in some places 20K and 50K racers were going different directions on the same trail. The 50K has since become a one-loop course, extending outside the Seeley Creek Trail System and onto snowmobile trails. The Driftriders, the local snowmobile club, groom that portion of the trail for the OSCR racers.

Carey said, "The 50K one-loop is kind of an adventure more than a race. If it's a clear day you [racers] have beautiful vistas. Going counter-clockwise you get some beautiful views of the Swan Range. And once you break over the top of the pass up there north of Florence Lake you can see the Mission Mountains. A couple of years ago there was a fog bank in the valley and you could see above the fog bank. It was just stupendous."

Complete information about race categories, registration fees and start times is available on the OSCR tab of the SLNSC website, New this year is online registration with credit card payment. Racers can also register by mail or in the yurt on race day.

All racers will receive a stainless steel insulated water bottle with the OSCR logo on it. Snacks and beverages will be available for them at the conclusion of their particular race. A meal will be served (free to racers) at the 2:15 p.m. Awards Ceremony and Feed at the Seeley Lake Community Hall. Each racer will also receive a raffle ticket for ski items provided by the race sponsors and raffled at the award ceremony.

Betty Vanderwielen, Pathfinder

In previous years, volunteers stood at the finish line with stop watches and manually recorded the time as each skier came in, identifying them by bib number.


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