Over 70 people came out to race by head lamps and moonlight and I hope enjoyed the most technical course of the year. Jared and I set the course in the waning afternoon light and wondered if we were a little too ambitious with the technical skinning and a steep and very tight choke on the descent.
At the Milly base, I yelled out some informal instructions and pleaded with everyone to be careful on the descent...there was only room for one at a time. Shortly thereafter, we were sprinting, 70 strong across the parking lot toward the southeast corner of the resort. The nerds in spandex would complete three laps on the 800 foot course and the gluttons for punishment with the heavy gear would do two.
We booted a rocky outcrop, made kick turns up a couple steep slopes, traversed a ridge, and landed above Lake Mary at the top of the course. From here, a short traverse along the plateau led to the mini chute, then a track through the trees, and onto the lower section of groomer, which brought everyone back to the booter.
By the time I made it to the steep choke, it was obvious that the very limited amount of snow still left wouldn't withstand the onslaught of 70 people for another two laps. In fact, a handful of racers were stymied by what now appeared to be a mandatory air onto very firm snow with a rock or two thrown in for excitement.
Jared and I hurried to find an alternate passage and luckily another choke into the trees served just fine. Our system was then for Jared to block the first option and wave people towards me, where I directed them through the detour. This seemed to work well and I think everyone was happy to have the course refreshed for their next laps.
In the end, Eric Bunce edged out the PowderKeg master, Chad Brackelsburg for the win and Marta (hailing from Spain) edged out Gemma (also from Spain but adopted by the Wasatch) for the women's victory.
To celebrate their performances, as has been our tradition, we gathered at Molly Green's en masse and overwhelmed the staff. Beer, nachos, and pizza were everywhere. We handed out pies as prizes and then turned to a proper raffle to hand out a Voile shovel and probe (thanks Voile), an Arva shovel and probe (thanks Skimo.co), some CAMP shirts (thanks CAMP), Momentum climbing passes (thanks Momentum), many many boxes of Powerbars and gels (thanks Christian Knight, who is a rep for Powerbar), a CAMP Speed helmet and Comp gloves (thanks Gear Thirty), and some La Sportiva GTR skis (thanks Jared and Sportiva).
Paul Diegle was the big winner of the skis and I think we were all big winners for coming out throughout the winter in the dark, rain, and snow. We got fitter, made new relationships and improved old ones. Many people learned about light gear and moving more efficiently in the mountains. Others just lugged heavy stuff cause they are tougher than us weight weanies. So many folks won prizes or pies throughout the season and it was cool to see some of that gear in action. It was also cool to see people sitting around at Molly Green's sharing their victor's pie and exchanging stories with other racers.
Also, I'd like to wish Courtney Phillips and Robby Babbit (sp?) a speedy and complete recovery from their injuries. Both have been regulars at these races and have always been happy and encouraging to others. They represent everything good in the backcountry skiing community and I can't wait to have em back! See you soon guys!
So to finish off, thank you again to all of you for an exciting season. Don't forget about the real racing coming up this weekend with the Powderkeg and hopefully, we'll pick up on Thanksgiving morning right where we left off...
|Jared, Chad, Paul, Andy and Andy setting the course|
|Eric and Marta with their victory pies|
|Part of the crowd at Molly Green's|