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Vertfest 2011 – Going Up?

February 15th, 2011

Vertfest, organized by Outdoor Research, is the largest backcountry festival and rando rally race in the Northwest with all proceeds benefit the Friends of the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center. Osprey’s Director of Marketing Gareth Martins competed in last weekend’s race and gives us the inside scoop…

“I am a backcountry skier.”  “I like to earn my turns.”  “I enjoy the uphill (almost) as much as the downhill.” These thoughts cycle through my head as I charge up hill with 121 other skiers. “I enjoy running my heart rate at 90% of max?!” This thought joins the cycle as I fall into line my tips inches from the tails in front of me, tips behind me tapping my tails, keeping me moving. I am competing in my first “Rondo Rally” and I will survive.

The guys and gals in speed suits and skis not much bigger than skate skis are long gone. I am caught in the middle of the fray, all of us groveling 2,400 vertical feet up Alpental ski area in Washington.  The thoughts in my head continue their cycle and I can’t help but ponder their inner meaning. “I am a backcountry skier.” That means that I like to spend time skinning uphill in the backcountry. “I enjoy the uphill (almost) as much as the downhill.” That means the pace is moderate, the heart rate far from maxed.  Views are taken in, frequent discussions occur with my companions. “I like to earn my turns.” What the hell am I doing earning my turns when there are two chairlifts in plain view this entire slog?!!!

Because, it’s fun. Damn fun! My first rando race at the 2011 Outdoor Research Vertfest was a hoot. Granted my heart nearly exploded and I could barely crank a turn on the steep downhill and my quads burned like the fire of a thousand hells, and due to my top transition delirium, I forgot to put down my heel lifters for the entire descent. Still, I had fun.

Osprey has sponsored Vertfest for a number of years, but due to Outdoor Research’s impressive expansion of the event, this is the first year that we pulled out the stops. Along with our bike marketing manager, Jeff Fox, I journeyed from Southwest Colorado to Seattle and on up I-90. With support from our local sales rep team, we set up our booth, demoed our Karve sidecountry packs*, met tons of great folks and enjoyed a brief immersion in what Outdoor Research calls “Verticulture”. This year’s Vertfest included Saturday clinics and demos, a Saturday evening backcountry film festival and on Sunday, the now iconic rando race.

Some noteble finishes: Osprey athletes Andy and Mike Traslin, placed first and second in the men’s race division. Fitz Cahall, author of the superb Dirtbag Diaries, aced the splitboard division. Of particular note was the energy and love exuded by the local community in memory of Monika Johnson. I was captivated by the slideshow images of all the places she visited – nearly every photo with skis on her feet. The women’s race division winner, Juya Ghanaie, recalled that when she decided to enter Vertfest, many told her she would do great – but inevitably finish in second place due to Monika’s dominance. She had met and skied with Monika only once, but respected her immensely. A bittersweet and tearful victory, indeed.

Participating in Vertfest was a bit of a homecoming for me. I spent a decade of my life cutting my skiing and climbing teeth in the Cascades. Many years have gone by and much has changed, but the feeling of being part of a family of adventurers has not. Here’s to 2011 and looking forward to 2012!

by Gareth Martins - Director of Marketing, Osprey Packs

* Look for Osprey Karve Series sidecountry packs in Fall 2011.

Read more about 2011 Vertfest on Facebook

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