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.


Leave a Reply