Besh Cup to showcase top skiers
The Besh Cup Ski Races, which annually attracts some of the top skiers from all over Alaska, will be held Jan 20 to 21 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Lookout Mountain Ski Trails. While the majority of racers are high school and college skiers, these races are open to skiers of all ages.
The Besh Cup is also a terrific spectator event. The ski trails at Lookout Mountain are designed to encourage spectator appreciation. And the 300 to 400 visitors that the event attracts is a boon to Homer's winter economy.
Plan to pack a lunch and some hot chocolate, bring your camp chair and arrive early to stake out your viewing location. The Saturday Sprint events, organized similar to a track meet, features multiple preliminaries and then finals races. The races offer hours of fun and excitement. The Besh Cup races will not return to Homer again until 2020, so plan to see and/or ski in them this year.
Drive 2.5 miles up East Hill Road to Skyline Drive. From there, keep straight and drive 3.3 miles on Skyline Drive, before turning left on Olson Mountain Road. Drive about 2.1 miles to Harbinson Lane, turn left and drive about 100 meters to the gravel parking lot next to the ski club building on the left side of the road. Park here rather than next to the hay fields on Olsen Mountain Road.
The Besh Cup is a statewide series of six ski races, locally sponsored by the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club (www.kachemaknordicskiclub) and are used as qualifying races for other events such as the Arctic Winter Games, the annual Junior National events and The Olympic Trials.
On the Kenai Peninsula, the Besh Cup series alternates bi-yearly between Homer and the Tsalteshi Trails in Soldotna. The Besh Cup series of races was originally named the Tang series, which had the orange drink Tang as its primary sponsor. It was renamed as a memorial series after Tom Besh, a statewide skiing luminary in the 1980s and 1990s, died in a plane crash.
The event consists of two separate race formats. The Saturday races feature a series of 1.5-kilometer skate-ski sprint preliminary races followed by finals. The Sunday race will be a more traditional, individual start, 10-kilometer classic ski race. Because these Besh Cup races are qualifying events for state and national races, they attract some of the best 18- to 20-year-old ski talent from across the state and nation. Some of the athletes you will see this year may well be the same athletes you see in future national and world championships and the Winter Olympic games. You may have a chance to see and meet the next Kikan Randell.
In addition to being a great ski race event, the Homer Besh Cup is very spectator-friendly. The Saturday Sprint events, which take place around the Hay Field Oval, are particularly view-friendly. You can set up your camp chair around the stadium, or up high near the Ski Club warm-up/maintenance shed, and be able to view the entire sprint race course. Even for the longer 10-kilometer race on Sunday, you will be able to see large sections of the course from a variety of vantage points as the racers make their way around the course.
Additionally, the area around the start will be abustle all weekend with prepping skiers and other race-related activities. Another way to see the race is to volunteer. Contact Jan Spurkland to do just that at: email@example.com.
While the Besh Cup events certainly attract, and are dominated by, elite-level athletes, the competition is open to all skiers who would like to participate. If you are interested in competing in the Besh Cup, the event offers age-based categories starting at 8 years of age. Register to compete online by visiting the website for the sponsoring organization, Cross Country Alaska at: www.cross-countryAlaska.org.
Carpool and parking notes
Because parking is limited, event organizers encourage attendees to car pool in order to reduce the number of vehicles. Also, when parking at the event, please pack in as close as you can. And please observe the private property signs posted by residence who live near the ski trails.