It’s a Wrap – 2013 Powder Keg

Reposted from my 2013 Wasatch Powder Keg Synopsis

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.


40 on 40 – 40,000′ on my 40th

I had 3 goals for this ski season

  1. Climb over 3K in an hour
  2. Ski a combined ascend and descent of 40K in the backcountry on my 40th BD
  3. Get in some volcano skiing in the spring
I was able to accomplish the first goal pretty quickly in the year at both the Jackson and Targhee races (Jackson was 6,400′ in 2 hours and Targhee I did the first 3,400 in 1 hour). The third goal I am still hoping to do this spring. For the second goal, my birthday was yesterday. As I was thinking of doing this, I knew it wasn’t necessarily a good idea as I would mostly likely be exhausted going into the hardest week of the year (Powder Keg week). But, I would only turn 40 once so a big birthday deserves a big goal.
The weeks prior to this, I talked to several people about where they thought a good spot to go would be. Most people were in agreement that Argenta off of Kessler Peak was the best option as it was a 3,000′ climb right from the road so it maximized climbing and reduced distance. I sent out an email to ski partners and skimo friends inviting any and all who were interested to make a lap or 2 with me. What I cared most about was having someone in the morning on the first lap in the dark and on my last lap (assuming I would be exhausted). With no surprise, Andy Paradis was totally on board to get up well before the crack of dawn and do some morning skiing. Others were planning to come up at various times during the day. The forecast for the day was not looking very promising. Warm and snowy which meant wet.
Andy and I met at 4AM and were skinning by 4:30AM. I took a large pack full of food, water, and spare cloths that we left about 900′ up the skin track and I carried a race pack the rest of the day with just a shovel, probe, ultra light shell, 1 water bottle, and a couple hundred calories. The snow started at 5AM and would continue all day. We were at the top of Argenta at 6AM and were treated to a fun descent in the dark. We stopped when the slope got brushy as it wasn’t worth hooking a ski on a tree in the dark. It was great to have company on the first climb and it definitely made me feel safer not skiing the first run alone in the dark. As we started the second lap, I settled into my own pace that I hoped to keep all day. Andy and I would pass each other at various times as he did another 2 laps. He was also able to get a couple photos
Lap 3
Lap 3
I was able to continue to climb a steady 2,000’/hour with the descents taking around 15 minutes. Both the skinning and skiing were challenging. The skin track was steep so I had to re-break several sections to accommodate my race gear with limited risers. The descents were variable snow with lots of brush to navigate. With the stormy weather, I was also wet for most of the day. The wind was also blowing hard enough that I was concerned about wind loading up high so instead of skiing various lines, I ended up skiing the same line each run so that I could sluff the new snow off the slope, then be back there in 75 minutes before too much more snow accumulated.
I had a pretty good rhythm of climbing, skiing down, then climbing ~400′ to my pack, grabbing food and continuing on. From 8,000′ to 11,000′ I was suffering quite a bit and was really starting to question if I wanted to continue. Emily showed up shortly after that and even though we didn’t ski together, it was nice to see someone. On the next descent I ran into Tom Goth and was able to take a short break to chat. The lap after that Eric and Jackie came up for a lap so by now I was feeling better seeing people at various stages of each climb and descent. By 10,000′ my feet were pretty sore from my Scarpa Alien 1.0’s. I knew Brent and Emily S were coming up for a lap so I had them bring my Dynafit boots from the truck. At 16,000′ with 2 laps left, I changed into dry boots and socks which was a savior. I climbed my second to last lap in my normal 2,000’/hour pace, then met Emily B, Emily S, and Brent and we did my last lap together which was a great way to end the day. With 200′ to go to the ridge, I had to take advantage of finishing hard and put in 1 last hard effort to finish fast and strong to the ridge before skiing back to the pack, packing everything up and heading to the car for a much anticipated beer.
20K of climbing completed!!!!
It was great to accomplish my 40K goal. I was happy with how good my body felt, the pace I was able to climb all day, and the support from the friends who came out to provide some motivational support (as well as some snacks and gear changes).
My Suunto Ambit log

  • CW-X Revolution Tights
  • Icebreaker socks
  • I/O Merino light weight top
  • Crazy Idea skin suit
  • BD Gloves
  • CAMP gloves
  • Buff
  • Patagonia Helium Jacket (Cut to fit over a pack)
  • BD Tracer Helmet
  • Smith Pivlock Glasses
  • CAMP Rapid 260 Pack
  • Salomon Nordic Poles
  • Ski Trab TR Race Bindings
  • Hagan X-Race skis
  • Scarpa Alien 1.0 boots
  • Dynafit TLT Performance boots
  • Pieps DSP Beacon
  • Voile XLM Shovel
  • Voile XLM Probe
  • Lots of music on my iPod


  • 2 bottles Herbalife Prolong with Hammer Sustained Energy
  • 2 bottles Roctaine powder with  Hammer Sustained Energy
  • 2 Red Bulls
  • 6 oz Hammer Gel
  • 4 oz First Endurance EFS Gel
  • 2 Clif Bars
  • 1 muffin
  • ½ loaf pumpkin chocolate chip bread
  • 3 slices potato/egg bake
  • 1 Aussie Crunch Bar