A look at the perplexing
number of masters racers
dropping out nationwide
Have all the
BY BILL MCCOLLOM / PHOTOS BY HUBERT SCHRIEBL Katie George is a rare breed: a woman who’s still racing.
I missed the New England Masters Series (NEMS) races at Cranmore Ski
Area from Jan. 27 to 29, opting to take a weekend off instead. This was a
tough decision, because the races have always been a tradition on the NEMS
schedule and it’s the umpteenth running of the Gibson Cup. Yes, the Gibson
Cup, one of the oldest ongoing trophy races in the country with names such
as Brooks Dodge, Tom Corcoran, Tyler Palmer and Toni Matt inscribed on the
gleaming silver surface of the permanent trophy.
There are no secrets in today’s wide world of web access, and on race day
I happened to check in online to see how my classmates were faring. I was
shocked to see that there were fewer than 70 competitors in the field and only
seven women. This was a race that, 10 years ago, would draw more than 150
racers. Where was everyone?
To see if this wasn’t just an Eastern aberration, I contacted Debbie Lewis, a
veteran masters competitor out of Mammoth Mountain; Far West race orga-
nizer; and computer guru. She has her finger on the pulse of masters ski rac-
ing. “Yes, we’ve been losing numbers the past decade, particularly among the
women,” said Lewis. “The big classes used to be those in their 30s and 40s,
but now it’s 50s and 60s. We’re seeing a lot of dropout, some of which is to be
expected, but we’re not seeing racers coming in at the younger ages.”
Jen Kaufman, masters racer extraordinaire and Rocky Mountain president,
expressed similar sentiment. “We’re working so hard to market our races,
but our numbers have been slowly falling over the past 10 years,” she said.
“We’ve kept our race fees relatively flat, and our races have only gotten better,
yet we’re not attracting the locals at each race site, we’re not replacing those
who dropout due to injury, and we’re flat-out losing women.”