Ski mountaineering national championships coming to Brighton Resort
February 21, 2018
This weekend, the Wasatch Powder Keg ski mountaineering race will come to Brighton Resort, which this year will double as the U.S. national championship race. For those interested in the sport, it will be a chance to see the best racers in the United States compete on local ground.
In addition to drawing national team athletes like John Gaston and three-time national champion Janelle Smiley, it will also provide an opportunity for local athletes like Gemma Arro, an elite racer who teaches Spanish in Midway, to show what they can do.
"Her strength is definitely on the uphill," said Chad Brackelsberg, race director. "She is a very, very strong climber. She's been a member of the Spanish and Catalan national team for several years, so she has a place in the sport internationally."
On the men's side, watch for Salt Lake racers Tom Goth and Jason Dorais.
The race series has three components over three days. Friday will feature a sprint race — a short climb with switchbacks, a boot pack, and a gate descent, starting at 4 p.m.
Saturday will be middle-distance race, where elite and "heavy metal" division athletes slog through five climbs totaling 6,500 feet of vertical gain across 10 miles, according to the race website. Recreational skiers will also compete in Saturday's race, going through three climbs totaling 6.5 miles and 3,700 feet of vertical gain. All races start at 8 a.m. in a mass start near the Milly Chalet.
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Brackelsberg said Saturday's events will be easily viewed from the starting area near the Milly Chalet. There will also be plenty of opportunities for people hoping to watch the action away from crowds, as the race traverses essentially the entire resort, starting with a massive climb from Milly Chalet to Clayton Peak, near the top of the Great Western lift, then makes its way west to Preston Peak past the Snake Creek Express, and eventually past the top of the Milly Express before dropping back down to the finish.
Sunday will feature an endurance race starting at 7:30 a.m. and cover six climbs totaling 8,600 feet of vertical gain over 14 miles.
Brackelsberg said other than the start and finish, Sunday's race will largely be hidden in the backcountry. Spectators can see parts of the race from the top of Crest Express lift, and just downhill from the Great Western at the bottom of Clayton Peak.
"If people have backcountry touring gear — skis, skins, beacon, shovel, and probe — there are numerous easily accessible options to view the race including Preston Peak and Peak 10,420," he added.
The winners will earn a cash purse as well as valuable points in the national series.
The event will also feature vendor booths, with sponsors showcasing their gear, a DJ, and grilled food outside of the Milly Chalet. The Utah Avalanche Center will also run backcountry education classes on a host of topics, including companion rescue, introduction to splitboarding, women's intro to ski mountaineering, and a backcountry tour with a naturalist, among others.
Brackelsberg recommended bringing warm clothing and a "thermos of tea to keep warm."