Vertfest 2010 Race Recap

Post by blogger | March 16, 2010      

Kirk Turner

Backcountry skiing racing.

Aerial view of the the Vertfest rando race lead group including the fastest three of the day, the Traslin Bothers Mike & Andy, as Well as Kirk Turner

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).

Vertfest ski race.

While we were hoping for wet and scrappy conditions to make the event a true Cascadian event, the start happened under beautiful sunny sky.

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.

Randonnee racing.

So this is what it looks like when 107 racers head up a icy hill at once.

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.

Randonnee racing boot climb.

First booter of the race.

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.

Andy Traslin at the halfway point on his way to victory.

Andy Traslin at the halfway point on his way to victory.

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.”

Backcountry skiing

Yours truly, slogging it out.

(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.


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10 Responses to “Vertfest 2010 Race Recap”

  1. Chris Stern March 16th, 2010 10:26 am

    I have been skiing my K2 Mt Bakers for 2 years now (both AT & lift assisted) and love them, but have been looking at Armadas. The JJs look pretty radical to this old guy, friends have older ARvs & seem to like them, but the ANTs look interesting. I’m an expert skier, but don’t know skis these days. How do I compare the above?

    Thanks for the help. Chris

  2. WanaBe March 16th, 2010 2:20 pm

    Looks like a fun race… love the idea of the later start- more spectators, warmer course, and not having to get up at the ass crack of dawn!!! Think we can talk some promoters into it out here in the Wasatch?

  3. Greydon Clark March 16th, 2010 4:25 pm

    This was my first race and I was surprised at how fun it was, despite the first 800 feet of the course being absurdly icy and a complete gong show for those of us in the middle of the pack. (People sliding into each other like bowling pins at every choke point.) I really hope Alpy does this race next year.

    Also, I must admit I snickered at race division guys and their spandex, but their blazing fast times were a potent glass of shut the hell up.

  4. Dostie March 16th, 2010 5:51 pm

    Good to see the tradition of running VertFest in the middle of the day in full view of their chair lift limited brethren to see. One of two conclusions must be reached by the onlookers from the chair.
    1) Those guys are crazy!
    2) Ah…so that’s how backcountry skiers get uphill, and geez, they’re moving pretty fast at that. Hopefully the spandex didn’t dissuade any future converts to the backcountry.

    I’ve participated in two rando races. P-Keg and VertFest. Both were fun, but I prefer the midday start and opportunity to make an impression on resort skiers with VertFest better.

  5. Jonathan Shefftz March 17th, 2010 6:43 am

    Great event! This is the exactly the kind of race [sorely] needed to increase grassroots participation in the sport.

  6. kirk March 17th, 2010 10:14 pm

    I agree, super great race we need many more like them! I’m also a fan of the late starts, 4AM is just so earlyyyyyy.

    However, I believe the problem is that most resorts don’t want to deal with the logistics/liability of having a live race going on in-bounds or crossing boundries, so they just want the racers off of the hill by they 9am race time. Honestly? It worked just fine at Alpental….

    *Some minor corrections:
    -Alpental is not a “new venue” as there have been Vertfests there the past few years. Just new from Crystal last year

    -Benj is with the Friends of NWAC, not NWAC.

  7. Greg Louie March 18th, 2010 9:57 am

    Nice write up, Kirk, and nice race as well!

    It was a beautiful day for the event, and great to have the sponsors step up in this economy to keep Vertfest going. I can’t sing enough praises about OR, Pro Guiding, and Summit-at-Snoqualmie for all their work.

    BTW, several of us “over 50’s” did 2 laps, including 4th place Lowell Skoog!

  8. Tom March 22nd, 2010 4:40 pm

    I was skiing that day at Alpental and watched the race from the comfort of the lift. Cool thing was that on every ride up the list, someone asked what was going on. Great exposure for backcountry skiing in general. Most people had heard about it but never actually saw people doing it or understood the difference between it and XC skiing.

    I will verify the bowling pin effect on the first hill. Pretty entertaining. Liked the guy who’s binding detached too. Put on a new demo set of boots and skiis and headed right back up. Kudos to Pro Guiding Service.

  9. Mike Traslin April 6th, 2010 11:19 pm

    Thanks for the report Kirk!

    Growing up North Vancouver ,British Columbia Canada it is fun to be called a local.

    But I have spent a large part of my life in Washington,(Soccer and hockey exchange in my youth,skateboarding in Seattle,skiing and climbing,road and mountain bike racing,not exactly things that will change the world but fun either way.

    Yes Louie the over fifty crowd is very impressive…..

    I think I have done this event seven times now….. Great event I have met some really cool people along the way….. Cheers!

  10. Andy Traslin April 7th, 2010 12:02 pm

    I had a similar path to the rando.Racing as a Pro/elite mounain bike racer.
    This is the best event I race it every year.OR and Pro Guiding understand how to run the event.Keep the RULES to a minimum grab your pack and gear,marked course and just go hammer.

    My brother and I would have actually been racing at the World Championships for Canada but politics got in the way.So I prefer to race in the states and try and have fun.

    It’s all about the backountry skiing.Racing is just a good way to stay fit,push your limits and a be strong for epic trips.

    Last year my brother thought it was a hockey game and body checked me at the finish line, so I was a happy to put a few minutes on him this year.Stoked too get some racing shots.

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