All posts by Andy Dorais

Wasatch Skimo Citizen Series #3 Recap

December 17 was the third iteration of this winter’s Wasatch Skimo Citizen Series. I didn’t get a full headcount, but the list of members is over 100 people now and I’m pretty confident most of them showed up last night–it was incredible! We’ve had alot of people sign up at utahskimo.org and coming out to the races.

The beautiful thing about these races is the range of equipment used–From lycra suits, carbon boots and twig skis to splitboards and powder rigs. Regardless of gear, the races are a chance to be introduced to skimo racing and a good excuse to go ski with friends on a Tuesday night. I’d take skiing intervals over intervals of eating chips while watching the Kardashians anytime.

I was in charge of setting the course last night and it gave me a lot of respect for that task–It takes a while and you have to schlep all the flags up and down the course, setup, tear down, etc. It takes much longer than you’d think and it made me appreciate the effort that goes into this each race.

Several sponsors have been supporting the series with raffle prizes from Voile, Black Diamond, skimo.co, Gear:30, La Sportiva, Camp, Gnarly Nutrition, Kate’s Bars, backcountry.com among others.

The race division raced a course of 3 laps, with others completing two laps. Each lap consisted of two ~400 foot climbs and two ski descents. The suits finished in around 45 minutes with everyone else finishing in 60-70 minutes of racing before heading over to Molly’s.

Tom off the front right from the get go.

 

The crowd descended on Molly Green’s after for raffle prizes and food.

 

The proginator of many Wasatch skimo racers, Joey Dempster.

Transitions make or break it in the suits race. ~60 seconds for an uphill transition and ~30 seconds for a downhill transition.

 

The viking.

 

2013 Skin the Turkey – Utah Ski Mountaineering Kicks Off

This Thanksgiving morning nearly 100 of us showed up at Brighton to a beautiful clear morning and beleaguered snow pack to sear our lungs and earn our turkey.  What started as three friends chasing each other up hill four years ago has become an great tradition with many new faces added each year.

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90 people earning an extra piece of pie on Thanksgiving morning
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Dorks in spandex
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The remarkably fast Gemma at the transition
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Gathering at the start line…nearly one hundred strong!

The course was limited by the lack of snow but provided entertainment along the double skin track as racers worked to pass and avoid being passed.  The downhill portion of the course seemed to ski well even though by the end of the hour some rocks and grass could be seen poking through.

Our format was again the vert style where we did as many laps as possible in one hour.  Tom Goth pulled off an impressive 7 laps to claim the W and a pumpkin pie for his efforts.  Gemma Arro Ribot beat all but a few men and took the women’s victory.

There were many other great races within the race too as many friends were trying to claim early season bragging rights while others were happy to just breath some fresh air in the mountains while moving on skis.

After the race, we moved to the Alpine Rose where prizes were donated by the Sport Loft, Skimo.co, BCA, the Powderwhores, Voile, Kate’s Bars, and others.  Some guy even won a prize for being extra good looking in his flannel shirt while racing.

Our next event will be December 3rd at 7 PM.  Please park along the church where you’ll be directed to the race start.  Also, if you haven’t already signed up, checkout utahskimo.org to join and make a small donation to cover race costs.  And lastly, don’t forget that if it has snowed at all, please check in with ski patrol before traveling uphill at Brighton.

Thanks again to all who came out and made this a great event!

Wasatch Skimo Series Finale

Yesterday, we held our ninth and final race of the season and I must admit, I never thought they would be so fun.  This season was an overwhelming success because of the infectious enthusiasm of every single person who came out and raced.  We also could not have done this without the support of Brighton, Brandon Dodge, and Max McNeal.  Those guys are psyched for all things skiing and are awesome.  Further, I could not have anticipated the support from the local outdoor industry as we have had an outpouring of prizes donated throughout the year.  In the beginning, I questioned my judgement as I gave away a “lightly used” jacket as a prize.  Now we have had donations from The Sport LoftVoileGear ThirtySkimo.coLa SportivaMomentumPowerbarCAMP, the PowderwhoresScarpa, and Ski Trab (please let me know if there is anyone I missed).    And thank you as well to all of you who helped set the courses, pull pin flags, brought pies, or helped in any other way, including just showing up.  So with that longwinded speech out of the way, here’s a recap from last night.

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

 

Unknown racer

 

Transitioning

 

 

Eric and Marta with their victory pies

 

Part of the crowd at Molly Green’s

 

 

Racing Under the Lights

Last night we had our penultimate race of the Citizen’s Series and it was another great success.  We all warmed up to the base of the Snake Creek Lift and then rallied for an hour, putting in as many laps as we each could on a meandering short course through the trees.  Witnessed were many great battles with Jared Inouye just pulling out the win over Teague at the last minute (8 laps) and Sarah edging Emily and Liz after a very close race. We all raced through pockets of darkness  but also enjoyed the lights of Brighton’s night skiing operation for sections of the course.  After the hour of pain, most folks again congregated at Molly Green’s where we had a short gear demo by Brett from CAMP USA and then a huge haul of prizes was passed out.

We had climbing passes from Momentum, shovels and probes from Voile, a pack and shirt from Gregory, and of course pies for the winners of the races (both heavy gear and race gear categories).  We also had Trab demo skis, CAMP demo gear, and course markings provided by La Sportiva, Scarpa, and CAMP.  It really is amazing the support we are getting from the ski industy!

Once again, thank you to all of you for coming out and creating an infectiously enthusiastic environment.  These free, informal “races” are a success because of all of you.

Also, thank you again to Layne, Tom, Jared, Brett, and Greg for helping set the course and carrying course markings and gear.

Finally, our last night race will be this coming Tuesday with the finale for the season being the Powderkeg over March 7-9th.  Make sure to sign up to test your fitness and skill against the Wasatch and the rest of the country.

Since this will be our last night race of the year, suggestions are welcome regarding the race format.  What were your favorites? Anything new you’d like to see?  Comment below and let’s have a fantastic last race!

 

Race Tonight!

Don’t forget about our penultimate citizens race tonight (2/19)!  Be ready to go at 7PM for an hour of uncomfortable fun followed by some actual fun at Molly Green’s.  Please park along the Milly side and defer to cat drivers during your warm up.

More great prizes will be given out tonight and you’ll have the opportunity to demo CAMP gear and Trab skis!

As always, all are welcome.  See you all tonight!

Wasatch Skimo Race #6: The OR Show

Thursday morning we had a special daytime race (although we started in the snowy dark) to accommodate any folks from the OR show who wanted to get some exercise during their 3 day marathon of yapping their jaws and fondling gear.  As expected, attendance was a little down on a work day but 30 people still came out and raced our best course yet!

We started next to the Milly Chalet and ran across the parking lot to the Great Western base.  From there, technical skinning ensued and at least a couple people probably wished for full coverage skins.  Rather than stop at the top of the lift, the course took the racers to the top of Clayton Peak for a full 2000 vertical.  This fragmented the field but from my position as racer/course marshall/race director, I got to see a bunch of close battles within the overall race.

The descent from Clayton was variable up top and icy bumps below the cat track.  I had counseled everyone to ski gingerly through a few rocky sections but instead I saw a little aggression as some of the better skiers tried to make up ground.  Luckily, our safety record is intact!

The second climb ascended on low angle skin track through mature pines before gaining the upper groomed section of the Snake Creek lift.  We exited the gates and then climbed to the summit of Preston Peak, our second of the day.  From there, a short descent back into the resort and down a wind drifted section of trees took us to the base of the final climb.

Again exiting the backcountry gates, we made another short climb to the summit of Pioneer Peak, making it three for the race.  By now the storm was building in character and so were most of the racers left on the course.  It was windy and the visibility poor, but the best part of the course was still ahead.

On the final descent, we enjoyed steep powder through some tight trees.  Quickly though, we were spit out onto a long left traversing groomed section that was somehow punctuated with sporadic moguls and one steep drop that caught more than one person by surprise.  Not quite done, there was a 200 meter flat skate to the finish before everyone could relax, put on some warm clothes, and enjoy some food at the Chalet.  Not quite everyone made it to the finish as I suspected since many people had to get to the show for early appointments or to work like normal civilized human beings.

That was their loss as this race received generous support from Voile and a few nice avy shovels were given away during the awards.  New US Ski Mountaineering member, Tom Goth ran away with the race but bailed early as he is sometimes responsible and had a meeting.  That meant that Chad Brackelsburg won a pumpkin pie for being the top finisher at the awards ceremony.  Christian also took home a pie for being the last finisher (wait until he gets on some light gear and he will tear through the pack!) and Tamara snagged one for coming out for the first time.

Thank you to all who came and participated.  It’s great fun to see the Wasatch speeding up and to see the friendships that have developed throughout the races.  We will resume regular Tuesday night action on February 5th and only have three more before the big event: The Wasatch Powderkeg!

Thank you also to our race sponsors (more great prizes to come!):

SCARPA, Ski Trab, La Sportiva, Voile, Outdoor Research, The Sport Loft, the Powderwhores, and especially Brighton Ski Resort!

Gathering around for the pre race briefing

 

Mike Kloser finishing up

 

A few happy people (L-R Mark, Tamara, Andy, Chad, Jared, Janelle, and Everett)

Also, thank you to Noah, Jonah, Tom, and Jared for helping set the course and to Chad, Mark, and Brent for helping tear down!

Citizen’s Series Race #5 Recap

My life is almost impossibly busy right now and with too many balls in the air, Chad, Jared, and Jason, Teague, and Tom jumped in and put on the race last night.  It was cold but still 8 degrees over at the base of the Great Western lift.  Around 40 people, some new and many regulars, toed the line and then worked hard to complete the three (heavy metal) or four (racers) lap course.  They skinned over groomer, bumps, and single track through trees with a harrowing choice to balance over the “death log” or to drop into a small pit of despair.  Oh, and the skiing wasn’t too bad either with the soft snow and mellow lighting from the nearby night skiing operation.

In the end, Jason won the race division with Teague and Jared rounding out the non existent podium.  The women’s group was led as usual by our adopted Catalonian, Gemma Arro Ribot with Sarah and Emily taking 2nd and 3rd.  Out of those not on true race gear, new comers Rusty, Chris and Chris did an admirable job at their first Citizen’s Skimo race leading all others.

Another oddity of the night was our departure from pies as prizes and the distribution of doughnuts.  Jared was gracious enough to pick them up but struggled to find pies in the middle of January.  It didn’t matter though as the winners were happy to pass around some chocolately doughnuts to share.  Also, thanks to La Sportiva for the ski straps that were given as prizes to the new people!

Next up is our 2nd annual Wasatch vs the World skimo race on Thursday the 24th.  This one will take place in the morning with the race starting at 7AM.  For you locals, come out and show all the OR Show folks how we are stepping it up around here and speeding up the Wasatch!

Trying to stay warm before the start
Early one in the race

 

A lone racer approaches the transition

 

 

 

Chad trying to stow his skins prior to leaving the transition

 

A tight race with more than three guys in the transition together
Gemma and Teague accepting their doughnut prizes!

Christmas Eve Race Recap

This snowy Christmas Eve morning we had another delightful race with around 40 in attendance, earning their holiday feasts.  The course was to summit three prominent peaks along the Brighton ridge line but visibility and conditions didn’t cooperate so plan B was to put in three climbs of decreasing vertical gain along the Great Western boundary line.

Tom, Layne, and Josh, very graciously joined me just before 6 AM to set the course in the new snow.  We put in a skin track that offered a variety of terrain including steep kick turns, flats, and groomer drag racing.  The first lap ascended to the top of the GW run (1750 gain) and then mostly followed the track for off piste skiing back to the base.  The new 6 inches provided great racing conditions.  The next lap climbed just under a 1000 feet along the same course and the last was a sprint with around 400 vertical gain.

Overall the “peloton” has gotten much faster.  I noticed people with new race skis, new speed suits, and  generally moving much better.  The Trab Tour Rando demo skis allowed a couple more people to catch a glimpse of why “light is right”.  There are three pairs available…let me know before the races if you’d like to try em out.

After the racing, most of us congregated at the Milly Chalet for some breakfast and to hand out some quick prizes and pies.  Tom dominated the field but gave up his pie which went to the next rightful heir, Tim Holmberg (Chad left early and missed out).  On the woman’s side, a new threat (name?) showed up and pushed Emily throughout and was awarded a big apple pie.  The Sport Loft generously supported this race and provided custom ski straps and a pair of Fly Low gloves as the grand prize for the day.  Those guys are true pros and have been great to work with over the past couple years.  Thanks Sport Loft!

We will now take a break from racing to get our powder fix and will resume the shenanigans on January 15th at 7:00 PM.  Hope to see you all there!  Happy holidays!

The field strung out early on the first climb
Eric, Chad, and some more suits

 

Luther and Tim

 

People with more fashion sense

 

Except Brent? and his new speed suit

 

Tom with victory sealed while still only on the second of three laps

 

The ladies race

 

Pies and prizes (donated by the Sport Loft)

 

The Sport Loft…celebrating 40 years of business

Wasatch Skimo Race #3 Recap

Tonight was a great night.  We counted 55 people that came out to join in the festivities.  It was cold with a faint glow in the air from the night lights of Brighton skiing reflecting off the clouds and people were jolly in spite of the hour of suffering they were about to endure.

Milling about before the start

We all sprinted from the start but quickly settled into a pace we could each sustain.  The course was almost entirely off piste and meandered through pines, made tight kick turns, sported a short boot track, and then subtly climbed to our high point.  From there, a quick transition sent skiers (and a few splitboarders) down a parallel path through fantastic powder.

The challenge was for the dorky looking folks in spandex (actually really good looking and fashionable) on skinny skis to do four laps and for everyone else to do three.  The cold air and dry powder stymied those who didn’t have extra skins but I think everyone completed the course.   After crossing the always crooked start/finish line most made it to the official finish line…Molly Green’s

There, we enjoyed food and drink and handed out some great prizes.  The Powderwhores donated a copy of their new movie, “Choose Your Adventure” and SCARPA donated the grand prize for the night which was a pair of Ski Trab Race Poles.  As always, pies were awarded to the winners and then shared with other hungry racers.

The movement is growing!  There seems to be solid interest in learning to move fast.  It makes sense though.  Climb faster to ski more and have more fun.

And, special thanks to Brighton, Brandon Dodge for being our advocate, Tom and Chad for help setting the course, SCARPA for the pin flags and the demo skis (3 pairs of Ski Trab Tour Rando skis which were well received and will be available at each future race on a first come first available basis), and to all of you for coming out and making these things so fun.

See you all next time (December 24th at 7:30 AM).

Below are some pics from the evening, most courtesy of D. Maack.  I’d like to get pics of everyone but these are the ones that turned out given the poor lighting and fast movement.

Kick turn conga line (photo by MH)
Tom G smiling in the middle of a tough lap?

 

Watch out for this man in the future…

 

Is that who I think it is?

 

Another battle

 

Josh racing on Megawatts?

 

Newcomer Katie on the Ski Trab demo skis looking like she’s having a good time

 

These awesome women braved the cold (along with a few others) to cheer us on with cow bells

 

Powderkeg President Chad through the lower trees

 

Hanging out at Molly Green’s after