Town League Is Around the Corner
By Sue Todd
Alyeska will once again gather Alpine skiers, telemarkers and snowboarders to compete in ever popular eight-week Town League race series this coming ski season. According to Brian Burnett (aka Burntski), General Manager for Alyeska, the event has been held every year since the mid 1980s, and it will continue again this year. This season, registration will be held on January 9, 2020, and the race season will run from January 16 through February 27, with a final party on March 5.
Every season, actually every night, of Town League is unique. Some seasons enjoy perfect conditions. Other seasons there is a dearth of snow. Sometimes, snow is perfect at the top of the mountain and pure slush at the bottom. It can be a surprise each week, not to mention when there is fog.
What does not change is the camaraderie among the participants and the sheer joy of competing. Burntski credits Matt Parisen for driving the events on the hill, working behind the scenes on the details. Each year, Parisen sends a team of solicitors out to collect sponsorship. Merchants from across the Turnagain Arm and Anchorage generously donate door prizes that are dispersed over the eight-week series. Winners of the prizes are randomly drawn after each race so everyone has a chance, not just those who finish first.
Before and during the races, the usual ski movies run on the TVs at the Sitzmark. However, once the races are done, and more quickly than anyone would imagine, replays of the skiers’ performances are run on repeat. Whether a stunning finish or an embarrassing fail, everyone gets to see. This moment is when the real party begins, with ribbing, drinking and celebrations that bring the noise level to a crescendo. It is all in good fun, and before long, the participants go home, only to return the next week to repeat.
The series was originally held on weekends, but some years back, it was changed to Thursday nights. Reportedly, John Byrne was looking for an excuse for additional night skiing. (Well played, John.)
There are several divisions for the races: A) experienced racers; B) expert skiers with gate experience; C) intermediate skiers with no gate experience; and last year a newly formed open division for mono-skiers. Teams consist of five to seven people, and both men and women must be represented.
It is best to have a variety of talent on a team, as only the top five in each division can accumulate team points, so the possibility of earning top points in several categories can benefit the team score. However, whether skiing as part of a team or alone, individual points are still accrued, and everyone who participates accumulates points.
The cost to be a part of the series is $100. Though it does not include the lift pass, it does provide pre-race practice time from 3:30-5 p.m., eligibility for weekly prize drawings, overall series awards and the Town League Final Party. Races are held each week from 6-8 p.m. The after party with video replay starts at 8:30 p.m.
Town League, according to rumor, started when there were few competitions for adult recreational racers. It provided an opportunity for adult racers of all ages to continue competing. It was, at one time, a far more serious competition than it is now. Town League today has a more recreational vibe, but the participants still bring it each week, and there is plenty of friendly individual rivalry. Kevin Desmond, who has participated in Town League for many years, says, “Hats off to the resort for organizing Town League, collecting swag and keeping it fun. I will continue to compete as long as I am physically able. It’s my moral obligation.”
Here’s to another great season of racing. See you on the mountain! (I’ll be in the Sitzmark.)