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 Osprey Brand Team, a group of 10 ambassadors reporting from the field at consumer outdoor events across the country as well as reporting on adventures in their own neck of the woods, checks in with Randonee ski racer and brand team member, James Whitesides. Here James describes an ambitious plan to make the Randonee national team…
There are so many quotable phrases about training consistently that I am overwhelmed every time I look to find one. I keep looking at them because, barring any miracles, it takes one hell of a realization to motivate me. When I recently looked at my training logs from six years ago I saw a different athlete than I am today; a 21-year-old road cyclist on the verge of becoming a Category 2 road racer. I was focused beyond all belief on the goal of being the best I could be at one sport. But then I grew up…
I worked a lot of hours in an outdoor shop in my hometown, Kalamazoo, MI, focusing on riding and snowboarding. In 2005 I decided to move to Colorado with my then girlfriend. After moving I had the epiphany that all athletes hope to have when I started skiing again: this is the sport for me. A year later I was Randonee (ski mountaineering) racing at Crested Butte with little knowledge of what I was about to get into. Suffering for four hours in a thirty-degree mist was all it took to get hooked. After two more races I was down to the two and a half hour mark and less than thirty minutes off of the winning skiers. For those that aren’t familiar with ski mountaineering races, think half marathon with 8,000 feet of climbing and the hardest downhill skiing most resorts have to offer. My best result to date has been 12th at the Wasatch Powder Keg in Alta. After that race I realized how much farther I had to go to get onto the podium.
This winter has been a wash. Skiing early was out of the question due to bad snow then too much snow. The mid-season snow pack has been good but inconsistent, I have been trying to get a new store up and running, and my ski partners have all had injuries keeping them out of the backcountry. But I have a plan.
With support from my shop and brands that I trust I am motivated to make the US Ski Mountaineering Association team by my 32rd birthday. Why my 32rd birthday? Well, there are several reasons. The first being I need to ski more (duh). The second is that the best performances I have ever had came after five years of consistency. I look back at my fifth year racing on the road and I can see that I was at the peak of my game. Setting a goal that high for myself will be hard to live up to but it is the only way I can have bad races can not totally give up. The long-term effort always has to prevail over the day-to-day.
My return to skiing has been interrupted this year due to the start-up I work for, uBRDO Cycle and Mountain Supply in Kirkland, WA, but we have plans to start carrying backcountry ski equipment. I also have started planning my training so that as soon as I finish my mountain bike season I will go into cyclocross and then onto skiing. With my peaks happening early in the fall and mid-winter I think I can be fast next year for the two Vert-Fest races in Washington and the USSMA championships in Jackson Hole. The support from the shop as well as Osprey will help keep me motivated and in the backcountry skiing and riding. Racing is something I love to do because of the rush and I hope that I can channel my energy into a successful run at becoming an elite Randonee racer.
For more information check out James’ bio page here.