The 4th annual OR Vertfest was held this past weekend, March 10th, at Alpental, WA. Vertfest is “The Premier Northwest Celebration of Human Powered Skiing”, and who can argue with that! One of the greatest aspects of this event is that all the proceeds went directly to support the Friends of the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center (NWAC).
This event was hanging in limbo for weeks as a location and sponsors were sorted out late into February, in fact it almost didn’t happen! But a new venue was found, and some fantastic sponsors stepped up to the plate just in time: Outdoor Research, Pro Guiding, K2, Osprey Back Packs, Nickwax, Black Diamond, and The folks at Full Sail Brewing in Hood River, Oregon all provided wonderful prizes and the event could not have happened without their generous support. There were plenty of things to do for non-racers as well, including a companion rescue clinic, ski demos and vendors to chat with.
The race itself went off without a hitch below the beautiful sunny skies with a record 107 racers. The conditions were interesting at best. It was hard or soft, but not much in between. If the snow was still in the shade it was an ice skating rink and if the sun had reached it the corn was sloppy, but no one seemed to mind. The Race categories did two laps with a vertical gain of 4100ft, including two booters, and the Rec category did one lap for a vertical gain of 2280ft.
In the Race Category a lead group was quickly established and after a bit of musical positions, local Traslin Brothers of Mike and Andy took the day’s top honors with Kirk Turner rounding out the top three. Many of the other categories had tight finishes and the old guys came out in force with 11 racers in the Mens 50+ category. Full results.
It was interesting that the organizers and patrol chose to start the race at 10:00 am while the resort was still functioning normally; however, with volunteers stationed throughout the course, especially in high traffic areas, it worked surprisingly well. It was great as a competitor to have so many spectators along the course and people shouting encouragement from the lifts above. It seems like both parties won, no one had to get up a 3:30am, the mountain did not have to close, and there were far more spectators than any race I’ve ever been too! Also individuals who may know little or nothing about our sport were able to see it.
Benj Wadsworth of the NWAC summed up the event nicely, “What a fantastic day! A great turn out, beautiful weather, a great course and great beer: what more could anyone ask for? We are really fortunate to have such a dedicated backcountry community out here. NWAC would not likely exist without it. I really hope that we can grow the event in the future to include instructional clinics and other events to draw in the non-racers. It’s got a ton of potential.”
(Kirk Turner is a young-gun to the game at 21. He grew up in a small town in Maine, racing mountain bikes as a Pro U-23 cyclist and has now shifted more energy to racing off-road triathlons and rando races. After living in Utah for a few years he took a severe liking to back country skiing and climbing in general, but whatever the season you will probably find him in the mountains. He currently resides in Bellingham, WA. Kirk blogs here.