One of New England's oldest ski races began as a challenge between Austrian Sepp Ruschp and Norwegian Erling Strom about who could get from the top of Stowe Mountain Resort's Mt. Mansfield to the center of Stowe Village first.

The catch? They had to pick one pair of skis, and use them on downhill and cross-country portions of the 10-mile route, which dropped down more than 3,000 vertical feet. That was in 1945. Ruschp won. A history of the event recounts that Ruschp was a top skier, the head the new ski school at Stowe, while Strom was a world famous mountaineer.

This year's race is Feb. 28. It begins on the summit, drops down Toll Road, a beginner alpine ski trail, and along nearly the entire length of the Stowe Recreation Path before reaching the finish in the village. It has four divisions: Derby Meister ($75), Long Course Skate ($45), Long Course Classic ($45), and Short Course ($25). Online registration closed at noon Feb. 27.

The challenge today is the same as it was then: to race from the top of Mt. Mansfield, Vermont's highest peak, to the historic village of Stowe.

The combination of downhill and cross-country skiing is considered the ultimate test of a skier's ability.

The race attracts as many as 1,000 competitors each year, ranging from Canadian Cross Country Ski Team members and NCAA champions to recreational skiers looking for a thrill. While the race can be very competitive at all levels, it is also a fun race.

More information: Stowe Derby ; Race Registration.