Monday, March 11, 2013

2013 Wasatch Powderkeg

This weekend the annual Wasatch Powderkeg was held again and was a huge success.  The new three day format seemed to be a big draw for some of the top national talent as well as many local racers who wanted to experience racing with a partner across some more technical terrain.  I was unable to participate in the Teams Race but can speak first hand of the Sprint and Individual Races.

But first, I'd like to offer a few observations.  Of all the races I've attended, the Powderkeg is one of the most well attended and with a truly festive environment.  Many major sponsors had demo booths, food and drink was provided, and the prize loot and raffle are the deepest and richest I've seen.  $700 to the winners of the men's and women's race division is a worthy prize for sure.  Thanks to Colleen, Andrew, and everyone else that started the PKeg and to the Brackelsburgs and everyone else that has kept it going and helped it evolve into one of the premier events in the country.  And Brighton certainly deserves a healthy dose of credit for their role in supporting the uphill movement.  Well done Brighton! They should be awarded the slogan of another local resort (which should have the slogan taken away). Brighton, a place for skiers!

Getting back to the racing (full results here)...

Sprint Race:

Friday night a sprint race was held, patterned after the European style.  First, a time trial took place over the short course which consisted of a lower angle approach to some kick turns, a booter, a short skin, a DH through gates, and finally a short skate to the finish.  National Champion, John Gaston turned into the fastest qualifier of f a 3:23 and I was pleased to be seeded second with a 3:25.  Everyone else was just seconds back but because of growing darkness, the semi-final round was bypassed in favor of an eight man final.  On the women's side, with only 5 entrants, everyone made the final after a "qualifying" round to warm up properly.

With the light fading to gray, we took off, a flurry of poles and carbon fiber, fighting for position.  I experienced some technical difficulty and quickly found myself in the back.  Pissed at my mistakes, I was pleased to see Jason gapping the other guys on the boot track en route to a win in 3:21.  John Gaston was second and Luke Neson third.

The well loved adopted member of the Wasatch, Gemma Arro Ribot (from Cataluña) won the women's sprint with her friend Marta taking second and National Team member, Meredith Edwards rounding out the podium.  

Sprints are a blast, hurt like an 800 on the track, are spectator friendly and punish foolish mistakes.  I hope to see more of them accompanying other races around the country.  

The beloved Gemma along with worthy opponents Marta and Meredith

Jason on top with John and Luke

Individual Race:

With six inches of snow overnight, the individual race on Saturday morning was delayed by 30 minutes as the Brighton patrol performed some last minute avy control work to mitigate the danger of 200 people traipsing around the surrounding backcountry.  

Once started, the race was fantastic with fresh powder and longer descents and climbs than traditionally found in the PKeg.  With the new snow, the guy out front had to work a little harder on the first couple climbs since the skin track had partially blown in, but this made for a more relaxed first climb than usual.  Well, for everyone except Luke who seemed hellbent on destroying himself early and broke almost the entire way up Clayton Peak.  Near the top when he was post holing to mid thing in places, I yelled, "BRAVO LUKE!" and the rest of the guys in the front pack also cheered him on.  He claimed the premium for the king of the hill but seemed to have taxed himself a bit too much for the rest of the race.  

From there, it stayed fairly close with the Aspen cream rising again to the top as Max Taam and John Gaston went 1-2 followed by Tom Goth, Jason, myself, Brian Wickenhauser (who amazingly raced most of the course with a broken boot), Luke Nelson, Gerard (also from Catalonia), Jon Brown, and Teague Holmes to round out the top ten.  

I was really pleased to finish strong and to ski more aggressively.  I still managed to find myself upside down in the air once but apparently my crash wasn't as spectacular as Jason as he reports tomahawking down the third descent.  I wish I could have been just a little closer at the time to see that!

Overall, I think this was my favorite PKeg Course yet and liked the changes that were made as a result of the Forest Service making some cuts to the traditional one.  

Teams Race:

Unfortunately, I couldn't attend the teams race but from what I hear, it was also a fantastic course.  There was a technical section that required racers to use harnesses and a via ferrata and covered over 8500 vertical with fresh snow and tight competition.  While I was sore and enjoyed sleeping in a little, I would have loved to have been there.  

Ultimately, Max and John took the win...again.  Tom and Luke were close throughout and if it weren't for a broken boot (that had Luke taking his off mid climb and trading with a spectator), they may have pulled it off.  They were followed by the Team Crested Butte guys, Wick and JB.  

This has to break some kind of ISMF rule.  And, it's awesome.  Way to finish Luke and Tom! (photo stolen from the interweb)
Next year, it looks as if the Powderkeg may become a full ISMF certified World Cup race with perhaps a contingent of Euros coming over to race.  With the growth of the sport, local race series popping up around the country, and an infusion of new talent, maybe collectively we can rise to the challenge.  Hope to see you all there!


  1. Congrats on top 5! You should wear a helmet cam to capture your aerials.

    1. Thanks JBo. The footage would just be all white though!

  2. NASCAR-like changeover. Less than 60 seconds.

    1. That's what I hear. Would have been faster if Luke didn't have such complicated boots. Still pretty funny mid race.

  3. Second hand, it sounds like there was a crash that led to excessive rearward pressure causing the pins to shear that hold the lever in place. But, I'll have to f/u with Luke for a more accurate story.