Ever since the huge winter of 10/11 when every five-year-old in Jackson Hole dropped into Corbet’s, skiing down that former test piece run at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort doesn’t make you so much of a badass.
You: “Dude! I totally sent Corbets!”
The local 40-some dad next to you in the tram line: “Yeah, my daughter launched into it backwards. She almost missed that first smear turn, but at the last minute, she pulled it off. She was six. Last year, when she was eight, she did it blindfolded. And threw in a backflip.”
Climbing up Corbet’s though? No valley grom has yet to do that.
And it turns out that if you want to, this weekend is your last chance. After this year, the Jackson Hole Randonee Race, during which JHMR ski patrol installs a ladder for racers to climb up Corbet's, their featherweight rando race skis firmly attached to tiny backpacks, will cease to exist.
So, you better race this year. Or you could just watch. But, you still have to do that this year.
You can registerjust for the JHMR race (stage 3 of the Wyoming Randonee Rally), which starts at 8 a.m. Sunday, January 5, for $60. Or register for the JHMR race and two others, both on Saturday, January 4, for $120.
At 9 Saturday morning, a race starts at Grand Targhee (Stage 1, $50 registration by itself). Saturday evening at 5, there’s an uphill-only race at Snow King (stage 2). By itself, this race is $25.
If you can’t commit, there is day-of registration for stages 1 and 2. THERE IS NO DAY-OF REGISTRATION FOR THE JHMR RACE.
Without a doubt, the Snow King uphill race is the easiest of the three. It is a sprint race and requires racers do multiple laps to the level of the Cougar lift.
The Grand Targhee race has three divisions: race, recreation and heavy metal. The latter division is open to racers not using specialized rando race equipment. If you’re unsure of what rando race equipment is, chances are you should enter the rec or heavy metal category.
If you plan on wearing a one-piece Lycra skin suit, you belong in the race class.
The Targhee race division includes 5,000 vert of climbing. The rec class is 3,000 feet of uphill climbing. Both classes include multiple transitions, skinning and boot packing.
But it is the JHMR race that is the test piece of the weekend. And also of the entire year’s rando racing calendar.
“There’s little doubt Jackson’s course is the toughest in the country,” race co-organizer Forest Dramis says. “And that’s exactly how we designed it. We want to challenge racers both when they’re going up and skiing down. There’s no resting or recovery.”
When the JHMR race was held for the first time in 2000—it was called the Life-Link Jackson Hole Randonee Rally at the time—it was the only rando race in the country.
Today, there is a national rando race governing body, the U.S. Ski Mountaineering Association (USSMA), and, across the country this season upwards of thirty rando races will be held from Ski Santa Fe in New Mexico to Montana’s Whitefish Mountain Resort.
Still, even with all of these newer courses, Jackson is the toughest. In the race division, there’s 8,200-feet of vertical ascending.
And then there are the descents. The JHMR course isn’t just challenging for its uphills, but also because it sends racers down double-black diamond runs. Descents include Tower 3, Alta Chutes and Central Couloir. The longest descent in the JHMR race starts at the top of Corbets. Racers ski Rendezvous Bowl to Central Chute to Cheyenne Bowl to Sublette Ridge and then to the bottom.
The fastest racers finish the Jackson course in 2-some hours. The last time I did the race division, I think it took me four-some hours. Yes, I had some gear difficulties, but not any that ate up 90-minutes of my time on the course.
It ranks among the hardest four-some hours of my life. It also ranks among what I consider my greatest ski accomplishments. Just finishing the JHMR course is a worthy accomplishment. I’m quite sad to see it go away.
If you can’t make this weekend’s races, fear not. There is a series at Snow King throughout the 2013/2014 winter. The Snow King Race Series Starts January 9th with an uphill course and later in the winter there are two races that have ascents, descents and transitions. These races are January 30th and February 8th.
Registration for all three races is the day of, from 4:30-5:15 p.m. in the Lodge Room at the base of Snow King. All Snow King races start at 5:30. The $10 entry fee includes a post-race beer and also a raffle ticket.