TRAVERSE CITY — Temperatures are expected to be in the low teens Saturday morning for the White Pine Stampede.
That will feel “balmy” for Eli Brown and Alex Vanias.
Brown and Vanias were among several local skiers who survived grueling conditions last Saturday in the Noquemanon Ski Marathon in Marquette.
Brown, who resides in Williamsburg, finished third overall in the signature 50K classic in 3 hours,14 minutes, 54 seconds. Vanias, a 23-year-old from Leroy, placed 16th in 3:32:20.
“What an epic day,” Brown said. “It was freezing cold. We had whiteout blizzard conditions. At the end, the general feeling (among skiers) was, ‘I made it and I’m alive.’ It was a memorable day for everyone.”
Brown and Vanias will be among the headliners in the White Pine 50K. Brown is the two-time defending Vasa 50K champion. Vanias is the defending White Pine 40K winner. Vanias plans to race the 50K freestyle Saturday. Brown is debating between the 50K freestyle and classic.
“It will depend on how I feel Saturday,” he said.
Brown is still feeling the after effects from the frosty Noquemanon — zero degrees with 15-to-25 mile-per-winds that created swirling snow and zero visibility at times.
“When it’s that cold the snow turns to sandpaper,” Brown said. “It’s just a lot of work. The winner’s time was probably the slowest ever.”
What made it more difficult for Vanias was his wax.
“It was only the second classic race that I’ve done,” Vanias said. “I don’t have the waxing technique down. My skis were super slow.”
It didn’t help that the falling snow was working against him, too.
“The tracks would fill up in less than a minute,” he said. “If you weren’t with somebody, you were probably breaking a new trail.”
Brown said he was surprised to see Vanias in the classic race instead of the freestyle.