RED LODGE — For six consecutive Fridays every winter, ski, telemark and snowboard racers of all skill levels race each other for fun and bragging rights during the Red Lodge Town Series Races.
The race series consists of racers competing as teams or individuals.
Racers are categorized into men's or women's A, B, or C groups depending on skill levels. There are no age categories.
The levels allow novices to race alongside seasoned racers in a low-intimidation atmosphere where “speed suits” are frowned upon. This year, 104 skiers and riders are competing on 19 teams.
Jeff Carroll, Red Lodge Mountain marketing director, says the race series creates camaraderie and competitiveness among the skiers from Red Lodge and Billings and helps fill the January lull after the holidays and before spring break.
The races are a giant slalom format and are timed to one-hundredth of a second.
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Each race consists of two timed runs, and winners have the fastest combined times of the two runs.
According to Bob Nickoloff, a longtime racer and course setter, the giant slalom race courses are set with safety in mind, yet are still challenging to the best skiers and snowboarders.
Team scores are calculated on how members placed in their respective groups. The lowest scores win.
The winner of each group gets one point. Second place is two points, and so forth, allowing a slower racer to place just as well as a faster racer competing in a higher group.
Every week, the day's races are capped off with a party and awards ceremony at 6 p.m. at establishments in Red Lodge.
The first and last ceremonies take place at Sam's Tap Room, located at the event's title sponsor, Red Lodge Ales. The races began Jan. 7 and will finish on Feb. 11.