On a surprisingly sunny Saturday morning, dozens of Lycra-clad skiers ranging in age from 7 to 72 lined up at the Whitefish Lake Golf Club where freshly groomed corduroy extended for miles beyond the tips of their skis.
Across three different distances, and two different disciplines, more than 80 competitors channeled their inner Viking warrior, kicking, gliding and skating their way through the 40th annual Glacier Glide.
“I was super excited with how the event went, and really stoked with the turnout, especially having such a big crew of skiers from the Missoula area come up,” said Jennie Bender, executive director of the Glacier Nordic Club (GNC), which hosts the Glide. “There was such good energy there, and the weather really cooperated — you can’t beat crisp snow and bright sunshine on race day.”
Making this year’s Glide extra enticing was the addition of a grand prize for the overall winners of the Pursuit Viking Challenge — the fastest combined male and female finishers of the 10k classic and 10k skate race. Bender secured a sponsorship agreement with the American Birkebeiner, the premiere long-distance cross-country ski race in the country to offer free entry into the 2024 Birkie for the Pursuit winners.
Orion Berryman of Missoula took home the men’s title, despite winning neither race outright.
In each of the longer competitions, Berryman, 41, set off with the lead pack, and sat just behind members of the competitive junior racing teams from Whitefish and Missoula. In the classic race, Berryman joined GNC competitive racers Nate Ingelfinger and Ruedi Steiner in an early breakaway. The three-man pack kicked and glided nearly in sync for three laps of the course, with Ingelfinger taking a narrow lead on the third lap.
On the penultimate turn to the finish, however, Ingelfinger fell and Steiner powered ahead, followed closely by Berryman. The two competitors double-poled their way across the finish line, with Ingelfinger inching ahead by one-tenth of a second.
Berryman completed the 10k skate race in similar fashion, again skiing behind a younger competitor, this time Jan Lauenstein, of Missoula. Berryman finished second again by half a ski length, but his combined effort crowned him the Pursuit Viking Challenge victor.
“These young guys go out so hard in the beginning and it’s always a struggle to keep up with them,” Berryman said after the race. “It’s fun to see how I do against them, cause I’m not getting any younger.”
Berryman was a member of the U.S. Masters Cross Country ski team last year and competed in the 2022 Masters World Cup in Canmore. He’s also been a regionally dominant skier for more than a decade, with wins at the OSCR 50k in Seeley Lake from 2013-2017, and again in 2019.
“I don’t think I’d have done the full Pursuit if the Birkie entry hadn’t been part of it — I prefer skating to classic,” he said. “I’ve never skied the Birkie, but it’s the pinnacle of Nordic skiing, so if that works out next year I’ll be really stoked.”
Several younger Berryman family members also raced in the Glide. Berryman’s oldest son, Odin, completed the Pursuit Viking Challenge as well, just a few minutes slower than his father, while 12-year-old Ender won the junior pursuit, which involved a skate and classic 3.5k course.
In the women’s Pursuit Viking Challenge, 16-year-old GNC racer Maeve Ingelfinger won both individual events and the overall title in convincing fashion, finishing eighth overall.
Ingelfinger competed at the U.S. Junior Nationals last year, skiing her way to two podium positions. She’s again aiming to qualify for the national competition and her Glide win showed off some early-season fitness.
“It’s important for Maeve and the rest of the competition crew to have process goals. Getting in a hard 20k of effort this early in the year was a great display of those goals,” Bender said. “The competition crew is looking stronger than ever, and I have to credit them for getting after it every day, as well as our new coach, Logan, who’s been doing great with the kids.”
Bender was also excited to see the number of younger competitors, both locally and from the Missoula club, that came out to the Glide.
“We had so many first-timers at this race, and even for kids who might not want to go the competitive route it’s a great experience to go out there and try to ski hard with this fun atmosphere,” Bender said. “I also hope that we get to spend more time with the Missoula skiers — we see these clubs at races around Montana and it’s important to share these experiences and bond together.”
The GNC will host its other annual event, the Carnival Classic, in February, and kicked off its weekly Tuesday evening relay series this week.
“The Glide has been a staple of Whitefish’s Nordic culture for decades now, and that history is important as we determine where we go in the future with this club,” Bender added. “My goal is to continue finding ways to inspire more people to be part of it and experience the atmosphere of Nordic.”
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