Sunshine graced West Yellowstone last weekend, setting the stage for the first annual Equinox Ski Challenge. The event was attended by athletes from Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. The race consisted of 6 Hour, 12 Hour and 24 Hour divisions with both team and solo athletes represented in each category. Several collegiate athletes from Utah set the pace early in the race, followed closely by Andy Shepard of Bozeman, MT.
As the afternoon progressed, the sun softened the course so much that racers ended up skiing in shorts and t-shirts or taking naps in the sun to await the faster course conditions later that night. At 4 PM the 6 Hour race concluded, with Jill Ewing and Courtney Robinson of the Hot Disco Duo taking the title with 99.2km skied and an extra lap awarded for winning the costume contest at the race start. As the course firmed up in the evening, Big Sky locals Tom Owen and Eric Becker kept up the pace, each skiing back to back laps on the 9 km course to give their teammate a longer rest before beginning another round. This schedule also gave each of them a little longer to enjoy the bonfire and BBQ grill that were provided as the darkness fell. These two ended up finishing at 10 PM with 171 km skied in 12 Hours. Solo skier Jonathan Rulseh of Bozeman was close behind completing 162 km.
As the moon lit up the trails and wolves and coyotes howled through the night, a handful of athletes kept skiing, boosted by the switch to an new course that had not been skied on during the previous warm afternoon. By 6 AM, only one had stopped due to a wrist injury. Eventually the sun came up, lighting up the trails and some very tired faces on skiers who had 20 hours of skiing behind them.
In the end, a team of three from Big Sky Montana took the overall title with 395 kilometers followed by an amazing effort from solo athlete Snorri Einarson of Norway with 326 kilometers. Close behind Einarsson was University of Utah teammate Steve Scott with 309 kilometers and Andy Shepard with 259 km. Taking the solo womens category was Akin Moss with 147 kilometers skied on the challenging course.
Beside providing an epic challenge for these racers, the event also collect 40 lbs of food for the West Yellowstone Food Bank and raised several hundred dollars for the West Yellowstone Ski Education Foundation and for Manaia Youth Programs. Hopefully more skiers are present to enjoy the camaraderie and inspirational efforts that made the first ever Equinox Ski Challenge a great race!
6 hour class results:
Neil Gleichman @ 6hr 28min, 10 laps, 90.2km
Eric Stratton @ 6hr44, 11 laps, 99.2km
Hot Disco Duo @ 6hr14, 11 laps, 99.2km
plus 1 lap bonus!
No Name @ 6hr45, 12 laps, 108.2km
Andy, Beth & Mel @ 6hr44, 11 laps, 99.2km
12 hour class results:
Jonathan Rulseh @ 12hr 18min, 18 laps, 162.4km
Zone5 @ 11hr43, 15 laps, 135.3km
G.A.S. @ 12hr01, 19 laps, 171.4km
24 hour class results:
Snorri Einarsson @ 22hr 41min, 38 laps, 326.9km
Steve Scott @ 22hr58, 36 laps, 309.8km
Andy Shepard @ 24hr00, 30 laps, 256.2km
Fabien Fiqi @ 19hr52, 28 laps, 245.5km
Eli Brown @ 25hr01, 18 laps, 154.4km
Emmett Purcell @ 24hr38, 16 laps, 137.3km
Alin Moss @ 24hr00, 17 laps, 147.2km
Hitt & de Boys @ 24hr00, 46 laps, 395.6km!