Everyone loves a fun event. Mt Hood Meadows and Full Sail Ale have teamed up for 12 years now of racing and ‘fun’ is the number one ingredient. The MHM Race Department battled right alongside the MHM Park Crew and intended to create a unique, hand dug course. But Mother Nature decided to drop 3 inches of rain with howling winds on that original April 7th plan. Postponing the race also puts a kink in everyone’s schedules. This became obvious to me that the race didn’t attract the 120 riders it usually does, instead a 50% turnout arrived on the rescheduled Sat April 14th. (The conflicting event 2 hours south was the Gerry Lopez Big Wave Challenge).
So let me delve into the event experience for you. I’m now 50 fucking years old. My mindset is just go- have fun. But wrong, my brain isn’t wired like that, I’m a competitor at heart. Always have been, always will bw, I suppose. I was up at 5:30am, my ‘anxiety’ alarm clock was ringing at around 4:30am. My wife and I rallied up HWY26 to the lodge, grabbing my friend TC Brockie on the way through Rhody. We arrived to the 4th row around 7:45am and headed into the Alpenstube Loft “Riders Lounge” and signed off the waivers and collected bibs. A longtime friend of mine Michael Reinhohl arrived shortly after and we reconnected with a morning course inspection gameplan. We were told the ‘VERY IMPORTANT’ Riders meeting would be held shortly so we ran to our cars for an ‘traditional smoke out.’ We returned to the ‘gatekeepers’ meeting and I guess I was paying too much attention to the MHM Race Director informing them the proper grounds to DQ a racer. “Both feet must pass around the stubby side of the gate” is what I heard. Nothing too unique about that specific detail.
My race crew consisted of my lovely Wife, TC Brockie (who strangley didn’t sign up for the race), Michael Renhohl, and myself. We headed to ‘Daisy Bowl’ where a withering Oregon HS Boardercross course existed. The ‘START’ was literally the worst start I have laid eyes on- totally flat into two rollers before you get to the first gate. Three nicely banked turns, down a chute to a long left turn into a jump. The jump had been throwing racers over the nose, something you can see from the start gate, so during my first run, I played ‘tactics’ and rode outside of the jump which set me up better for the following gate. Another feature awaited right after- a step-up to step-down to a long GS turn, a traverse back to more gates and then carry the speed you had up a grade reversal. The last pitch to the finish line was about 7 gates and done. During my first timed race run, my own crew busted me and yelled out “Game changer!” when they ’spot’ me going around the ‘jump markings’ in which the Start Director begins to inform the Race Chief that I went outside the ‘marked’ takeoff’ of a jump. Technically not a ‘Gate” but the Gatekeepers had put themselves into a frenzy trying to ‘sort out’ the technical aspect of my line.
When I return back to the ‘Start Area’ a few friends say “Dude, you got Dq’d!” and I asked, “Why?” Well, I guess the gatekeeper responsible for that particular section had a real hard time understanding the ‘markings’ of a jump are not a gate. Therefore I hear my ‘DQ’ was removed and I’m in the ‘Hot Seat’. I laugh- I’m 50! A few kids then said out loud- “Oh dam, we might get beat by some old dude.”
I’m then informed our 2nd runs won’t start for another hour and half. We all headed to the “FullSail’ Riders Lounge for a weather break. A few riders quickly wax and file edges, a few realized they had binding issues to fix. Adjustments made, change out those wet gloves, hats and goggles we all head back out. Weather has somewhat improved and visibility is better for the 2nd runs. To make things confusing, we still went in group racing order, but in reverse bib numbers. Yeah- tricky moves there Mr Race Dept Guy, good curveball. Now make a start gate that isn’t intended for skiers to skate into the first gate.
It got real serious in my class, three old 50+ men, stripping off jackets, rubbing fluorocarbon all temp wax, chugging Red Bulls and heckling the crap out of each other. We lined up after the ladies. It is also the first time in event history they allowed the 50+ class race before the bigger, younger classes. So we have a decent course to lay down a good time. Before my start, I yell out my traditional “This ones for you Dad! Auntie D & B, Haymes and Brunkhart!” the Start Gate Keeper begins my 3, 2, 1. I yell “Craig Kelly is my Co-Pilot” and yank hard out. I again- take every ounce of speed to the finish line. I hear my time “1:07.452” I improved!!! I wait for Pro Windsurfer and multiple Champion of this event Sean Aiken to descend the course. He gets off balanced around a gate and sits hard- losing all his momentum. I begin to celebrate. Handshakes and hugs- we all vow to return next year.
Thank you to the MHM Race Dept, Cat Crew, Park Crew, MHM Moutain Hosts, Parking Lot Crew, Concierge, Ski Patrol and MHM Marketing Dept for organizing and keeping this event an annual tradition. Huge props to the wonderful people at Full Sail Brewery for supporting snowboarding. See you next year!