2018 Powder Keg Recap

The 2018 Wasatch Powder Keg USSMA National Championships wrapped up Sunday afternoon, ending three great days of racing in the Wasatch!  While every year is a test of endurance for both racers and race directors, this year Mother Nature was especially difficult; with the lean snowpack our team of race directors spent weeks scouting and planning how to hold a race with unusually low snow.  After we had set much of the course and finalized our plans, Old Man winter crashed the party and delivered some much needed snow to Utah.  Our inner powder hound screamed with joy, but this was tempered by impending dread for the added work to hold a race.  But, with a lot of very early mornings and late nights, the event went off without a hitch, and we were even treated to bluebird powder for Sundays team race!

The weekend kicked off Friday evening with the sprint race.  The event started with a time trial to seed heats, followed by semifinals and finals.  Arguably the highlight of the weekend was sending all of the Viking racers (under 14) out for a final heat- seeing 12 kids who are the future of the sport duke it out was truly a sight to behold!  The top spots for the sprint went to Tom Goth (Men), Gemma Arro (Women), Henry Boyd (Junior), Finnegan Remias (Male Cadet), Victoria Olsen (Female Cadet), John Olson (Male Viking) and Ada Fendler (Female Viking).   With the exception of open women, each top finisher is also the 2018 Sprint National Champion.  For open women, Sarah Cookler is the 2018 Sprint National Champion.

Soon after the sprint race finished, the team was out again breaking trail for Saturday’s individual race.  The morning broke cold and windy, but the racing was truly red hot.  Racers faced some grueling climbs, bootpack sections through chest deep trenches, and even some great skiing, covering 6,200 feet of climbing while traversing through Brighton Ski Resort and the Wasatch backcountry.  The top spots were taken by John Gaston (Men), Gemma Arro (Women), Txomin Ortiz De Zarate (Junior), Grey Wilde (Heavy Metal Men), Liz Rocco (Heavy Metal Women), Benjamin Perrin (Rec Men), Regan Nelson (Rec Women), Max Bonenberger (Cadet Men), Grace Staberg (Cadet Women), John Olson (Viking Men), and Ada Fendler (Viking Women).  The 2018 National champions are John Gaston, Janelle Smiley, Henry Boyd, Max Bonenberger, and Grace Staburg.

The forecast Saturday night was foreboding, with 8-16” of snow in the cards.  The Powder keg team started out at 5:30 am to break trail while the racers were stuck at the bottom of Big Cottonwood Canyon due to a road closure. This gave the organizers a much needed additional 2 hours to get the skin track and booters broken.  Fortunately, the storm broke before race start and we were treated to a beautiful bluebird Utah day!  The teams course this year was entirely new, thanks to the brilliant course design of Eric Bunce, and featured an entirely backcountry race after a short climb out of Brighton Ski resort.  The race began with a striking ascent up Mt Millicent, followed by some perfect low density Utah skiing as racers traversed through Wolverine bowl, up and over Pioneer Peak into Snake Creek canyon, ascended Clayton peak via a very long booting section, then down into Hidden Canyon.  From Hidden canyon racers ascended to peak 10,420 before skiing down into the Lackawaxen area for their final climb back to Clayton peak before one last leg testing descent down Hidden Canyon.  As a final treat, racers ran across the road, skinned through the Brighton meadow, ran across the road again, and skinned to the finish line.  The top spot for men went to the always competitive team of John Gaston and Max Taam, while Caroline Gleich and Kathryn Bowman took the podium for women.  On the coed side, Janelle Smiley and Matthew Paul edged out Race Director Eric Bunce and Gemma Arro for the win.

This race would not be possible without the tremendous support of our sponsors.  First and foremost, Brighton Ski Resort, who graciously accommodate us, and have really been a major supporting force for ski mountaineering racing in Utah.  In particular, a special thank you to the men and women of Brighton Ski patrol who not only kept everyone safe, but also worked above and beyond to ensure we were able to run our event Sunday despite delay and snow.  La Sportiva was our presenting sponsor.  Additionally, thank you to Outdoor Research for their awesome race shirts, Kuhl and Scarpa for their podium prizes, Bridgedale for their great ski socks, Voile, CAMP USA, 1st Endurance, Ultimate Direction, Ortovox, Dynafit, Julbo, Skimo.co, and Brynje for their podium prizes and swag bag items, Epic beer for the best post-race recovery beverages, and Life Flight for keeping us safe!  Finally, thank you to the more than 50 volunteers that came out to man check stations, check racers in, and make this race possible- without you this race would not be possible.

Here are the official race results.



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2018 Powder Keg and Teams Course Update

We are just over 1 week away from the Powder Keg. Please see the weekend schedule for details. The Friday Sprint will be the same as 2016. The Saturday Individual course is the same as 2017. Two key things to remember

  1. Registration ends at 6PM on Thursday, February 22. You MUST pre-register for the sprint race There is no day of sprint race registration.
  2. The 6:30 PM pre-race meeting on Friday night is MANDATORY.

We are proud to release the new 2018 Wasatch Powder Keg Teams Race Course. The new course has only 1 inbounds section (the first climb) with the entire rest of the race in the backcountry. Course map and profile can be found on the Race Schedule and Courses page.

Teams Course Description

  • Ascent 1
    • Start at Milly Chalet and climb Main Street to the top of Milly Express Lift.
    • Boot to the summit of Mt Millicent.
    • It is racers choice of skins on or skins off for the short descent off the the summit of Mt Millicent.
    • Racers will then ascend the ridge and traverse through the trees below Wolverine Bowl to Checkpoint 1.
  • Descent 1
    • Descent and traverse skiers right to Lake Martha and Checkpoint 2
    • Watch the flagging and ensure you are traversing right on the descent
  • Ascent 2
    • Ascent the Dog Lake Ridge to False Pioneer Peak on Pioneer Ridge
    • It is racers choice of skins on or skins off for the short descending traverse of Pioneer Ridge
    • Ascend Pioneer ridge to Lone Tree at the top of Green Slope and Checkpoint 3
  • Descent 2
    • Descent Green Slope and traverse skiers left to the Snake Creek Road and Checkpoint 4
  • Ascent 3
    • Ascend to Crest Pass (same route as Individual Race)
    • From Crest Pass climb right up to Preston Peak and Checkpoint 5
  • Descent 3
    • Descend skiers right to the ridge above Snake Creek Cirque
    • Descend the ridge and follow the flagging to the bottom meadow and Checkpoint 6
  • Ascent 4
    • Ascent northeast to Rochester Ridge
    • Follow Rochester Ridge northwest to the main ridge at the top of Brighton
    • Turn northwest and follow the ridge to the bottom of the Clayton Peak booter
    • Boot to the top of Clayton Peak
    • Boot north down the Clayton Peak ridge to Checkpoint 7.
  • Descent 4
    • Follow the Individual Course descent down Cheese Grater into Hidden Canyon and Checkpoint 8
  • Ascent 5
    • Climb northeast to the ridge leading to Peak 10,420’
    • Following the ridge west southwest to the summit of Peak 10,420 and Checkpoint 9
  • Descent 5
    • Descent west from Peak 10,420 into the open meadow and Checkpoint 10
  • Ascent 6
    • Climb west to the saddle between Peak 10,420’ and Clayton Peak
    • Follow the ridge south to Checkpoint 11 (same as checkpoing 7)
  • Descent 6
    • Descent Cheese Grater (same as descent 4)
    • Continue through the Hidden Canyon Checkpoint 8 following the groomed access road
    • Drop down off the road and follow the flagging to a groomed run
    • Continue a short distance down the groomed run to the Big Cottonwood Canyon Road and Checkpoint 12
  • Skinning finish
    • Carefully cross the road
    • Put skins back on and follow the skin track along the parking lot and through the willow tree patch
    • Skis back off and once again carefully cross the Big Cottonwood Canyon Road by the church
    • Skin along the groomed heli landing zone to the finish line at Milly Chalet

Race Stats

  • 6 climbs
  • ~7,800’ ascent
  • Skinning finish
  • 2 booters
  • 2 road crossings
  • >14 miles

All resort slope names can be found on the Brighton Trail Map. All backcountry slope names can be found on the Wasatch Backcountry Skiing Map.

NOTE: It is it not yet known what will be needed for fixed lines. The final decision on this will be made on Feb 23. Please plan on brining harness, via ferrata, and ascender if you are leaving for the race prior to Feb 23.

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Big Changes for the 2017 Wasatch Powder Keg

Happy New Year!  We hope everyone has been training hard, racing, and skiing lots of great powder. As long as skiing powder is great race training, the Powder Keg Race Committee has been training hard.

We have some big race changes for the 2017 Powder Keg.  There is a lot going on in the Ski Mountaineering Race world in February and March. The World Ski Mountaineering Championships are 23 February – 02 March in Italy.  Pierra Menta is 08-11 March, and 5 Peaks is 11 March. Many of the US National Team will have the privilege this year to stay in Europe after World’s to race Pierra Menta. Due to these conflicts, we have decided to change the format of the Powder Keg race weekend.  This year we will be holding a Friday night Vertical Race and a Saturday Individual Race.  There will be no Teams Race this year.  We are committed to directing the best races, and since many racers have already committed to other races that weekend we have decided to focus on the 2 day race vs. the 3 day race we have put on the past few years.  We are excited for the Vertical Race format as we believe it will be an even more fun race than a Sprint.

The race committee is starting to put together plans for a bigger and better 2018 Teams race. We hope to be able to secure permission for a point to point Teams Race in 2018 which will cap off the weekend of the Sprint and Individual Races.  This will be a major area of effort in the coming months, but we plan to bring the teams event back next season in grand fashion!

In the meantime, please see www.wasatchpowderkeg.com for general details, www.wasatchpowderkeg.com/race-info-2/race-info/ for the race schedule and course maps, and https://ultrasignup.com/register.aspx?did=44030 for race registration.

We look forward to seeing everyone on 10 March.

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2014 Race Video

Thanks Ryndi Zastrow of Always Forward Sports for putting together a great video of the 2014 Wasatch Powder Keg.

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Thanks for a Successful 2014 Wasatch Powder Keg

Thanks to all of the racers and volunteers that made the 2014 North American Championships and Vertfest races a huge success.

We had a great Sprint event Friday night that.  It featured an approximate 300 foot course that had a few seconds of flatter skating, a few switchbacks, a booter, skinning again a downhill slalom course and a short uphill skating finish.  We had 54 racers compete to be the North American Sprint Champion.  The results can be found here

Women's Sprint Podium

Women’s Sprint Podium

We had a beautiful day for the individual race on Saturday.  It started out cool and breezy but soon turned warm.  The course was 5 climbs, 6200 feet, and 9.9 miles for the Elite and Heavy Metal divisions.  The Recreation course was 3 climbs, 3700 feet, and 6.7 miles.  We had 89 racers in Elite division, 31 in the Heavy Metal division, and 64 and Recreation divisions.  Gemma and Tom got to the top of the hill and won the king of the hill prize in record time.

Elite results

Heavy Metal results

Recreational results

Men's Elite Podium

Men’s Elite Podium

Women's Elite Podium

Women’s Elite Podium

Sunday morning started out early with the time change so everybody had to get up extra early and it very cold and icy conditions.  We had 34 teams start the course.  The course was 6 climbs with 8600 feet and 15 miles.   It was a tight race with both men’s and women’s teams battling it out to close to the finish.   See results here

It was a fantastic weekend with an amazing 41 racers completing all events. It was a close battle for the overall winers with very little time separating the top finishers after 3 days of racing.  The overall winners for the weekend can be found here.

Women's Triple Crown Podium

Women’s Triple Crown Podium

Men's Triple Crown Podium

Men’s Triple Crown Podium



We had great weather, courses, racers, and volunteers.  We look forward to the 2015 Wasatch Powder Keg races.

We couldn’t do the race without our great volunteers and sponsors.  We had over 10 volunteers on Friday, 41 on Saturday, and 34 on Sunday.  We had many people volunteer more than 2 days and we thank everybody for their dedication.  Our sponsors also continue to make this event possible with their generous donations. Please thank all of our sponsors when you have an opportunity.

We are also interested in your feedback on what went well and what can be improved.

If you have any photos feel free to send them to me or upload them onto the Facebook page, (and thank you to all that have already posted comments and pictures to our FB page).

Please see the Wasatch Powder Keg website for results and pictures.

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Race Update – 3 days to go

Race week is always a hectic time for the Powder Keg Race Committee.  We have much of the course setting materials staged around Brighton and will start setting course early Wednesday morning.

The weather looks perfect for the race.  We will have 5-10″ of snow Wednesday night through Friday.  The storms are scheduled to end early enough so we will be able to set fresh ascent tracks on Friday afternoon.  It should stay cool enough Friday to not create a crust on the southern exposures.  For those who are interested, I have included detailed weather links at the end of the post.

Pre-registration will close at 8PM on Thursday, March 6.  You will not be able to register for the Sprint Race or Triple Crown after this time.  You will be able to register for the Saturday Individual and Sunday Technical Teams Races at racer check-in on Friday night at Brighton.  Registration will increase to $75/race at this time.

Please remember that the Friday meeting is mandatory.  There is also a skills check for the Technical Teams Race prior to the pre-race meeting.  If you are doing the Technical Teams Race, you must complete the race check-in and skills check before 6:30.  You must bring your harness, ascender and via ferrata to the skills check.  If you are unsure on how to use it, check out this great video by Jon Brown.  We are expecting The Sport Loft to be onsite on Friday night selling harnesses, via ferrata kits, and Ascenders.  If you need one or are interested in purchasing on, I recommend contacting them ahead of time at (801) 272-3701.  Please make sure you are familiar with the race schedule, courses, required gear, and rules.  Since we are an ISMF race this year, we will be enforcing these rules and time penalties will apply.

There is going to be a lot of activity at the race this year. Our partnership with Vertfest is bringing lots of gear demos from our sponsors.  If you haven’t finished building your race setup you will be able to checkout gear from Voile, Scarpa, CAMP, OR, Osprey, Mammut, La Sportiva and many more.

If you aren’t racing the sprint on Friday night, we encourage you to come up and watch the North American Sprint Champion get crowned.  If you have never seen a sprint race, they are amazing to watch.  The climb is ~300′ with a few switchback and a booter followed by a GS gate descent.  The leaders will complete this in around 3 minutes!

See you all Friday.

Weather Links:


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2014 Powder Keg Required Race Gear

We are less than 2 weeks from race date!  If you haven’t registered, please do so early so that we can plan accordingly and not run out of post race BBQ food like we have in the past.  Similar to last year, we will be implementing ISMF rules for race gear.  The full list of gear and some manufacturers is posted on the Required Gear page. Here is a summary.

Friday Sprint

  • Skis/Skins/Poles
  • Pack capable of carrying your skis connected to the pack in 2 locations.
  • Helmet (Must meet UIAA 106 of CE EN 12492 standards)
  • Gloves
  • No beacon, shovel, probe, or additional layers required.

Saturday Individual

  • Beacon: Conforms to standard EN 300718 457 kHz frequency.
  • Shovel (no snow claws): Minimum length 50 cm.
  • Probe: No probe poles.  Minimum 240cm
  • Skis: front and rear bindings must be same manufacturer
    • Men: minimum 160cm
    • Women: minimum 150cm
  • Poles
  • Skins
  • Pack
  • 2 bottom layers
  • 3 top layers (1 must be a wind layer)
  • Gloves
  • UV eye protection

Sunday Technical Teams

  • All gear from Saturday plus
  • Harness: Conforming to UIAA standard 105
  • Via Ferrata: Energy absorbing system conforming to UIAA standard 128. Must have locking carabiners to attach via ferrata to the fixed rope. Static runners are not allowed.
  • Ascender: no prussicks, Ropeman, or Tiblocs.  Ascender must have a handle
  • Sling: must connect to ascender with a locking carabiner
  • Optional items to be announced race week
    • Ice Ax
    • Crampons

There will be a rope skills check for the Sunday Technical Teams Race on Friday during race check-in.  You must pass the skills check in order to race.

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Official 2014 Powder Keg and Vertfest Poster

Thanks for the great design work Jim.


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2014 Wasatch Powder Keg and Vertfest Registration

Registration is open for the 2014 Wasatch Powder Keg and Vertfest Clinics.

We are excited this year to be partnering with the Outdoor Research Vertfest. Vertfest will be brining 2 full days of clinics to Brighton.  A full race weekend schedule and list of Vertfest clinics is available on the race schedule page.  Details on clinic registration will be coming soon.

We are also excited for Chronotrack to be providing chip timing for the Friday Sprint and Saturday Individual Races.  This will allow us to get our results posted sooner and more accurately.  It will also allow you to link your results to your social media feeds to post as soon as you finish the race (as long as we have a reliable internet connection at the finish line).

Snow conditions permitting, we are planning the same courses for all 3 races as 2013.

Please be sure to review the race schedule, mandatory gear, rules, and FAQs.  These are all available from the Race Info menu bar.  There will be lots of activity this year including live music by Salem on Saturday.

We are an ISMF sanctioned race this year so ISMF rules will be applied to all racers in the Race/Elite division.

We recommend you signup for email updates from our blog (on the right side bar) and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for notification of any updates.

Thanks to all of our great sponsors for once again making the Powder Keg possible.

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Wasatch Powder Keg Partners with Vertfest for 2014

The Wasatch Powder Keg, presented by Voile USA, is proud to announce that the 2014 Wasatch Powder Keg Ski Mountaineering race will be a part of the 2014 Vertfest Tour, presented by Outdoor Research!  The Utah stop of Vertfest brings together the backcountry community for a massive celebration of human powered skiing, combining the Wasastch Powder Keg with clinics on topics such as avalanche rescue, terrain management, splitboarding basics, efficient backcountry technique, steep skiing, , along with live music, and product demos from some of the best companies out there.  And, it will be a fundraiser for the organization that keeps us on top of the Greatest Snow on Earth, the Utah Avalanche Center!  The UAC is one of the top avalanche centers in the world, providing daily advisories, education,, and awareness, and their efforts to keep the mountains of Utah safe need all of our support.  Vertfest is made possible by Outdoor Research, Voile, Scarpa, La Sportiva, Clif Bar, Mammut, and Osprey, all of which (and others) will be on hand to show off the latest and greatest in backcountry gear.  Vertfest is open to anyone interested in backcountry riding, so please come on out and party!

The 2014 Wasatch Powder Keg is happy to once again be presented by Voile.  Like last year, the Powder Keg will feature three days of racing, starting with a sprint race Friday night, followed on Saturday by the individual race, and Sunday will feature the bigger, longer, and more technical teams event and brings the largest ski mountaineering race in the United States to a close. In addition, for 2014 the Powder Keg series has been selected for the 2014 North American Championships.  Each of the 3 days of racing will crown the North American Male and Female Champion.  We are very proud to be a part of the International Ski Mountaineering Federation (ISMF) series in 2014, which will bring some of the fastest men and women from around the globe to the Wasatch!  So, come on out to race or have fun, it doesn’t matter if this is your first race or you are a seasoned pro, you will have a great time.

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