Black Diamond Powderkeg Randonnee Relay Race

Post by blogger | March 18, 2007      

Still here at Alta for more randonnee racing. Today is the relay, the first time a race of this sort has been held in North America.

This one is definitely NOT backcountry skiing. But a blast nonetheless. The format is simple, you mark out a short uphill course of about 400 vertical feet, drop some gates on a nearby run for the trip down, then divide into teams and pass the baton! The idea is to do things to your heart that your cardiologist should never hear about, and perhaps puke your guts out if things really go well.

We had eight teams of four. Each racer did two laps back-to-back, with climbing skin transitions being as important as cardio power. This led to some amusing spectating, as most of the people racing knew each other so the cowbells and catcalls rang loud as the poor soul fumbled with their gear.Lap times from 15 to 27 minuets, with total race times ranging from 1:08 for the winners and 1:55 for the tail gunners.

Randonnee race relay
Our team, “Media Circus.” That’s Lisa on the left, then me, then Peter Kray, and the ubiquitous Rando Steve.

Prize for most flamboyant transition went to Steve Romeo for his smooth removal of a ski while he was still skiing fast into the transition area after running the gates (the idea is you’re still moving while standing on one ski, but getting the other one off and ready to put a skin on, crazy). Prize for the most brutal changeover went to Brian Harder, who severed a thumb tendon on his ski edge while trying to break the world record for skin application (we wish Brian a quick recovery). As for me, I could only laugh at my inept bobbles. At the bottom I slapped a skin on with the glue facing out, then had the brilliant idea that I’d leave my experimental tail hooks off so I could rip fur even faster at the top. Problem was, as soon as I tried to lift my ski tail to grab my skin I discovered my skin tails were hooked to each other like someone had tied my shoelaces together. This of course with various people as witness. So much for that experiment!

The pros cleaned up, while our team Media Circus battled for fourth place the whole time but lost out to “One Pregnant Lady & 3 Guys Denying Responsibility” (Paul Diegel, Polly McLean, Drew Hardesty, Mark Christoperhson).

I shot some short video clips, check ’em out (Windows Media):

The Powderkeg Relay start.

Pete Swenson comes in for his transition, with Brian Wichenauser in pursuit.

Steve Romeo chases Brian Harder up the hill during the relay race, he’s trying to make up for the lack of cardio in the rest of team Media Circus. This video of Steve is NOT speeded up — I’ve never seen someone move so fast on a pair of climbing skins.

Randonnee race relay
Brian Harder with his badly cut thumb bandaged up and ready for the trip home. Luckily he works for an orthopedic surgery outfit and also has good health insurance — badly cut fingers always need TLC so you don’t get any recurring problems. We wish Brian speedy healing!


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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

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