By Jeff Leich
Special to The Conway Daily Sun
CONWAY — The 21st annual Hannes Schneider Meister Cup was held at Cranmore Mountain Resort on March 11 in uncharacteristically brutal weather conditions, with temperatures in the single digits and winds in the double digits.
Due to the harsh conditions, organizers decided to move the opening ceremony, usually performed outside, to the Eating House restaurant for the first time in the history of the event.
The event honors military units trained in winter operations, such as the 10th Mountain Division, in which many valley skiers served in World War II.
A color guard from the Army Mountain Warfare School of Jericho, Vt., posted the colors to open the ceremony.
Executive Councilor Joe Kenney of Wakefield and Deputy House Speaker Gene Chandler of Bartlett gave short addresses to a standing-room crowd, and Ben Wilcox, general manager of Cranmore, introduced Brian Fairbank, owner of the resort.
With the ceremony taking place inside, the snow stage was used to display Jackson native Marshall Abbott's 1968 Tucker Sno-Cat alongside Cranmore's new Pisten Bully 600E+ diesel-electric groomer in recognition of Cranmore's role in inaugurating ski area slope grooming in the 1940s.
The two-run dual course race was held on the Alley, a relatively wind-protected trail and onetime location of the resort's iconic Skimobile lift.
In the team format of the race, five-person teams competed based on the best one run of two of their members. One hundred-fifty-seven racers finished, with Cranmore I team taking the top spot, followed by WMWV and EMS.
Tyler Haynes was top male finisher with a time of 29:98, and Leanne Smith, two-time Olympian and Cranmore ambassador, was the fastest woman, with 30.38.
Cranmore's main base lodge afforded a prime view of the entire course.
At the awards ceremony, Hannes Schneider and Markus Schneider, great-grandsons of the man who put North Conway on the map as the Northeast's premiere ski destination, presented trophies to winners of the various competitive categories.
Age classes ran from 9 and under to 90 and over. The winner (and only entrant) of the 90+ class was Dick Calvert of Wolfeboro. He finished 138th of 157 despite recovering from a broken nose and fractured ribs.
Full Schneider Cup results can be found at http://Meistercup.org.
A fun feature is always the vintage fashion show, in which the public is invited to don ski attire from earlier decades.
First place this year went to the Carroll Reed Family, with their extensive collection of Austrian-themed clothing; the five-woman 10th Mountain descendant team came in second; and Mike Beebe of Temple Mountain took third.
The Rooster Cup, given in memory of Douglas "Rooster" Campbell and his motto "Strength, Courage, Determination," was presented by WMWV DJ and event MC Roy Prescott to Conway Daily Sun writer Tom Eastman, now recovering from cardiac surgery.
The "Downhill Divas," who organized fundraising events for the Ski Museum's capital campaign this winter, also won Rooster Cups. A raffle for a double chair from Cranmore's South Chair to support the new branch of the museum was won by 10th Mountain descendant Brewster Bartlett.
Throughout the day, 180 items were auctioned, including gift and trip certificates for skiers and riders that were contributed by valley businesses and groups.
Music was provided by the Bavarian Brothers Band, playing their distinctively jolly oompah tunes but also providing a haunting rendition of taps at the opening ceremony.
Sponsors who made the 21th Annual Hannes Schneider Meister Cup Race possible are: Cranmore Mountain Resort, Audi Stratham, World Cup Supply, the Connie Davis Watson Foundation, the Schneider Family, New Hampshire Distributors, Eastern Slope Inn and Resort, the Conway Daily Sun, Eastern Mountain Sports, Magic 104 FM, 93.5 WMWV, Valley Originals and Hill's RV.