Vertfest grows into weekend long event
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For the ninth straight year, Vertfest will be taking place at Alpental Ski Area on Feb. 19 at 10:00 a.m. Vertfest is not only a rigorous race that will test participants uphill ski touring stamina and present them with the challenge of skiing down double black diamonds, it is also a weekend full of alpine clinics and live music.
Originally a small alpine touring race with 50 or so participants, Vertfest has become a full-weekend fundraiser benefiting the Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC). NWAC is a valuable resource for backcountry enthusiasts to get the latest report on avalanche danger and up-to-date weather conditions.
Vertfest will be split into two days. Day one — clinic day — will be held on Saturday. Clinics are designed to reach a wide range of people, from those experienced in backcountry to those just getting into the scene. Clinics will include steep skiing techniques, companion rescue, backcountry self-rescue, ski photography and an introductory course to ski-mountaineering.
Saturday will also include free demos of the latest skis and snowboards from sponsors including Black Diamond and Dynafit, as well as live music at the base area, starting at 3 p.m.
Sunday is race day. It will be the true test of physical endurance with a 2,300-foot vertical climb, followed by the descent. Participants in the Recreational,Splitboard and Heavy Mettle class (people over the weight of 200 lbs.) will race to the top of the Edelweiss chair and ski down double black diamond runs, including International and Snake Dance. The elite class will take a second ascent up International and into the backcountry, then they will ski down from Piss Pass.
In the case of Vertfest, participants will be climbing the mountain underneath the chairlift, boot-packing up steep slopes and transitioning between climbing and skiing. According John Sims, a past participant, every part of the race is important, and practicing with climbing skins can play an important role in efficiency.
“Transitioning between uphill and downhill quickly and getting your motions dialed in, where you take you are taking your skis on and off and your skins off. I think that’s an area where I could have saved a lot of time,” Sims said.
There are multiple reasons why participants compete in an uphill-downhill race in an area that has terrain accessed by chairlifts. Some are there to compete against themselves while others are looking to compete against other participants.
“A race like that, I’m definitely try to compete against the other people and having the ability to physically pass people is really motivating,” Sims said. “It gives you a reason to be elitist and say you’re better than everyone else,”
Last year’s participant Caleb Bowman has a different take on the competition.
“It’s important to have fun with it, [but] don’t take it too seriously,” Bowman said. “I think in this case, since there is a chairlift right next to you, it is more about the competitive aspect, just seeing how far you can push yourself, how fast you can do it.”.
To register for the outdoor clinics or to sign up for the race visit summitatsnoqualmie.com or visit nwac.us for more information.