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 for general details, for the race schedule and course maps, and 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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2014 Wasatch Powder Keg Final Date

Although we are in the middle of summer, the Powder Keg Race Committee has been busy with plans for the 2014 race for several weeks.  The 2014 race has been scheduled for the weekend of March 7-9.

We are excited to announce that this year the Powder Keg was selected as the North American Championship Race.  This will be excited as we should see a larger race turn out including many members of the fast Canadian Ski Mountaineering Team.  We expect the level of competition for the race division to be the strongest yet.

As this time we are planning the same 3 day format and courses as the 2013 race.  As we continue to work through plans we will keep updates on the blog.

Enjoy the rest of summer and hopefully we will see some white stuff soon.

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It’s a Wrap – 2013 Powder Keg

Wow, what a week. Over the summer, we decided that it would be great to try to put together a 3 day race weekend that could be a destination race for people. For out-of-towners, it can be hard to justify a 6+ hour road trip for a single race, but with 3 races, that might be easier to justify.  We ran the idea past Brighton and they were on board.  We then started reaching out to the local skimo community to round up help in making this event a reality.  Eight months later, here we are with the races a couple of days behind us and (at least for us) still trying to recover from minimal sleep during race week.

Race preparations start in July, they hit the first peak in the fall with sponsorship, then quiet down to a manageable state until January.  From OR Show on, things are in full swing, but nothing compares to the how busy race week is.  This year was especially busy with course re-routes for Saturday and course finalization for Sunday.  We had 10-12 volunteers on the course starting on Wednesday to set the flags and skin tracks and make sure all conditions were safe.  With all the help we had, course setting went very smoothly and we had everything in place and the Friday Sprint course setup about 1 hour before the start.

Digging out the transition platform for Sunday's Team Race

Digging out the transition platform for Sunday’s Team Race


We had a trial sprint-relay in 2012 and people enjoyed it, so this year we decided that the sprint could fill Friday afternoon.  We had 34 racers for the sprint.  We held time trail qualification round followed by a final snow-cross style round.  It was a lot of fun to watch the racers complete the 300′ climb (with a booter) and descend the gates in under 3.5 minutes.

Sprint Podium


  1. Jason Dorais – 0:03:21
  2. John Gaston – 0:03:24
  3. Luke Nelson – 0:03:29


  1. Gemma Arro i Ribot – 0:04:29
  2. Marta Riba – 0:04:36
  3. Meredith Edwards – 0:05:08

Gerard Garreta of Catalunya Finishing the Sprint Race

Gerard Garreta of Catalunya Finishing the Sprint Race

The Sprint race was followed by the traditional pre-race briefing ensuring everyone was aware of the course, course dangers, weather, and avalanche conditions.  We have been organizing the race for 5 years and this was the first year with bad weather.  We knew we would need to be out on course at 4:30AM breaking the trail for the racers, but we weren’t sure what the winds would do overnight and what our actual avalanche danger would be.  Andy Paradis and I were out early flagging the first climb and breaking a trail (which would only get blown in before the race started).  The winds were strong, gusting to over 40mph on the ridge tops.  We were constantly talking to Max (head of Brighton Snow Safety) as they did their morning control routes.  Andy and I had ski cut and cleaned out Brown Spot into Hidden Canyon and knew it was safe.  At 7:20 with 10 minutes before the race start, we were still 20 minutes from the top of Great Western breaking the trail out of Hidden Canyon we made the decision to push the race start back 30 minutes.  The Brighton Patrol had held the volunteers at the top of Great Western until they finished their Snake Creek routes.  Andy and I still needed to clear the Preston Peak and Snake Creek Canyon areas before we could get volunteers into those areas.  We pushed to the top and headed over to those areas.  A traverse from the Snake Creek Express lift to Preston Peak confirmed that area safe.  A quick powdery descent into Snake Creek Canyon also confirmed that area.  Our volunteers were ready to go.  The volunteers had a tough morning with the cold and blustery conditions.

Powder Keg Start

Powder Keg Start


The race went smoothly with Luke Nelson going hard and breaking trail 2,000′ to Clayton Peak to win King of the Mountain.  Gemma Arro i Ribot took the Queen of the Mountain title for the women for the second year in a row.  The skiing for this year’s race was good with 4-6″ of new snow.  We were expecting finish times of under 2 hours, but with the new snow it was a bit longer.

Powder Keg Podium

Men’s Race

  1. Max Taam – 2:14:03
  2. John Gaston – 2:14:27
  3. Tom Goth – 2:14:50

Women’s Race

  1. Gemma Arro i Ribot – 2:30:48
  2. Marta Riba – 2:42:29
  3. Meredith Edwards – 3:00:49

Men’s Heavy Metal

  1. Eric Dacus – 2:53:43
  2. Erik Syrstad – 2:57:23
  3. Spencer Peterson – 2:57:25

Women’s Heavy Metal

  1. Katie Ronsse Libby – 3:19:04
  2. Emily Sullivan – 3:20:35
  3. Sarah Cookler – 3:21:28

Men’s Recreation

  1. Fabien Beaufils – 1:39:27
  2. Andrew Schmidt – 1:40:50
  3. Brandon Ott – 2:00:55

Women’s Recreation

  1. Emily Urlacher-Kirkham – 2:39:09
  2. Jean Marie Wheeler – 2:41:20
  3. Deborah Wagner – 2:56:34

Luke Nelson was generous enough to hold skimo clinics after the awards ceremony and raffle where he focused on transitions, skinning, and other skimo techniques.  The clinics were well received by the dozen or so participants.

On Sunday 38 people competed in the first ever Technical Teams Race.  The weather was great with sun peaking over Mt. Millicent soon after the race start.  We spent a lot of time putting together a long, technically difficult course for this race and based on racer feedback, we succeeded.  The key aspect of this race was the roped section up the Elevator requiring the use of harness, via ferrata, and an ascender.  This was followed by a 50 meter rope down climb using the via ferrata kit for safety.  The Sunday course measured around 8,800′ of ascent and 14 miles!  From the feedback we had, people loved the course so we hope to have it back again next year.

On the rope in the Elevator

On the rope in the Elevator

It was great to watch this race unfold with Max and John fighting hard to keep ahead of Luke and Tom.  The 4 were within 30 seconds the entire day.

Max & John fighting to keep ahead of Luke & Tom at the base of Clayton Peak booter

Max & John fighting to keep ahead of Luke & Tom at the base of Clayton Peak booter

Men’s Technical Teams

  1.  Max Taam / John Gaston – 3:37:13
  2. Luke Nelson / Tom Goth – 3:38:44
  3. Byran Wickenhauser / John Brown – 3:53:58

Women’s Technical Teams

  1. Gemma Arro i Ribot / Marta Riba – 4:38:11

Co-Ed Technical Team

  1. Emily Sullivan / Brent Mitchell – 5:47:06

It was amazing that after 3 days of racing with over 15,000′ ascent and more than 20 miles, the top 3 overall men were only separated by 2.5 minutes.

Triple Crown

Men’s Overall

  1. Max Taam – 5:54:47
  2. John Gaston – 5:55:03
  3. Tom Goth – 5:57:10

Women’s Overall

  1. Gemma Arro i Ribot – 7:13:29
  2. Marta Riba – 7:25:14
  3. Emily Sullivan – 9:14:05

It was an great accomplishment for those to complete all 3 days of racing so a big congratulations for those who completed the entire triple crown.

First Last Sprint PowderKeg Tech Team Total Time Place
Max Taam 00:03:31 2:14:03 3:37:13 5:54:47 1
John Gaston 00:03:23 2:14:27 3:37:13 5:55:03 2
Tom Goth 00:03:36 2:14:50 3:38:44 5:57:10 3
Luke Nelson 00:03:29 2:18:57 3:38:44 6:01:10 4
Bryan Wickenhauser 00:03:47 2:18:13 3:53:58 6:15:58 5
Jon Brown 00:03:50 2:23:34 3:53:58 6:21:22 6
Gerard Garreta 00:03:43 2:22:25 4:03:30 6:29:38 7
Teague Holmes 00:04:24 2:25:42 4:03:30 6:33:36 8
Eric Bunce 00:04:05 2:28:43 4:10:44 6:43:32 9
John Curry 00:03:56 2:33:41 4:09:26 6:47:03 10
Nicholas Francis 00:04:40 2:37:45 4:10:44 6:53:09 11
Robert Woerne 00:04:25 2:40:45 4:28:13 7:13:23 12
Gemma Arro I Ribot 00:04:30 2:30:48 4:38:11 7:13:29 13
Marta Riba 00:04:34 2:42:29 4:38:11 7:25:14 14
Spencer Peterson 00:03:58 2:57:25 5:44:49 8:46:12 15
Stu Johnson 00:04:41 3:11:07 5:32:15 8:48:03 16
Emily Sullivan 00:06:24 3:20:35 5:47:06 9:14:05 17

We couldn’t have accomplished this great event without all of our volunteers.  We had 13 volunteers on Friday, 41 volunteers on Saturday, and 30 volunteers on Sunday.  We had several volunteers donate 3 and 4 days of their time and we can’t thank them enough for this dedication.

Overall Men's Triple Crown Podium (3rd: Tom, 2nd: John, 1st: Max)

Overall Men’s Triple Crown Podium (3rd: Tom, 2nd: John, 1st: Max)

 For full results, see our results page.  We will also be posting photo albums as we get photos.


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