2-7-20 Basch-King PIne’s Pioneer Race Series

King Pine’s Pioneer Race Series has been at the East Madison ski area for more than 35 years. (KING PINE/THOMAS PRINDLE PHOTO)

From wearing blue jeans to tight-fitting GS suits, at the crack of noon on Mondays they bust out from the start to wind through the gates on the King Pine trail.

Some are veteran skiers, close to 70 years of age.

Others are in single digits, just beginning their journey through a lifetime of skiing and riding.

For more than 35 years, it’s been a staple at King Pine in East Madison.

It’s the family-friendly Pioneer Race Series.

Around since about 1983, the series was created by the late Bob Haynes during his time with the King Pine Ski School.

“It’s one of the few citizen race series that allows both adults and kids to race in their different categories so you don’t have to race against the kids,” said Jack Ellis, King Pine race coordinator. “If the family wants to come and race, they can all race together.”

Ellis says the series, which started Jan. 6 and runs through March 16 with its fun run and banquet, attracts all types of people — skiers, snowboarders and telemarkers. About 125 people are competing this season.

Each racer gets two runs during the nine weeks. Eight weeks are official. There’s a slalom and super G thrown in, too. The course closes at 4 p.m. Apre ski is in Trails End Tavern with giveaways. The season cost $89.

“This attracts anybody who skis,” he said. “We have ex-racers, FIS racers, and then we have people who have just started out skiing. So, across the board there is no typical racer.”

Over the years, Ellis has seen children progress, and now sees grandkids related to those who have been in the race series. The kids grow, marry and then have kids of their own. And they come back to race.

Not only are there three generations of racers, Ellis has also seen changes in technology both in gear and timing equipment. Ellis has been around racing since bamboo gates.

“That was a lot of bruises,” he said.

With many race series around the valley, some skiers just do this one, or others like Mountain Meisters or the Attitash Race series. Some are super competitive while others are low-key.

Freedom’s Brian Wade is in it to race with his two young children aged 9 and 11.

“It’s great,” said Wade. “It is the only family racing in the valley that I know of and on Mondays everyone comes together to have a good time. There’s a 67-year-old gentleman who has been racing here for 30 years who is showing my 9-year old how to take gates and cruise the course. I’m lucky enough to listen in and be able to pick up a few tips myself.”

For the Wades, son Lucas is competitive while dad says his daughter Addison is just there to hang out with her friends. He’s there for the ride.

“There is nothing better than the smile on their faces,” he said.

Then there’s Mike Veilleux, 68, of Madison. Once the Kennett High School alpine ski team coach, he’s been doing the series off and on for about 20 years and racing since the 1970s.

He’s a GS suit wearing racer, who still keeps on eye on his time.

“This is our World Cup,” he said at the start of the course with a smile. “We’re just having, really, a lot of fun. There are good people here. King Pine is part of my roots in the valley as well as Cranmore (he’s a former Meister) which I really love.”

The captain of the Gatecrashers team, he’s quick to dispense tips to fellow teammates and others. The team is skiing in honor of the late Ray O’Brien, a former valley teacher.

“This is just a mainstay,” he said. “Back when I was coaching, kids were allowed to take Mondays off to race at King Pine because it’s a race start. It’s all good.”

Ellis believes Monday was also chosen for the series because it’s a day that’s typically slow.

“When we started this thing probably Monday was a slower day so they wanted to bring people in,” he said. “The way to bring people in is to set a race course up and they come and race.”

He also said that people who are just in it for fun can improve their skiing, too. Racers share wax and poles. There’s no animosity.

“It’s all about skiing, family and fun,” he said.

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