A winter relay race for the history books

By Andrea Saari Lone Mountain Ranch

BIG SKY – The Big Sky Ski Education Foundation partnered with Lone Mountain Ranch and Big Sky Resort on Feb. 27 to rekindle a classic race.

The Mad Wolf Winter Relay Race brought 21 teams and six individuals together to compete on the challenging and exciting course, with proceeds benefiting BSSEF and the 200-plus kids who participate in its alpine, freeride and Nordic programs.

The race started with edge-of-your-chairlift excitement on Big Sky Resort’s Silver Knife trail – just as course inspection began at 1:30 p.m., snow and thunder rolled in. Chairlifts were closed as competitors waited 30 minutes for a thunder- and lightning-free sky.

Once ski patrol deemed everything safe, the bullwheels started turning and the delayed start kicked off at 2:45 p.m.


Competitor Emerson Frank ready to roll at the start of the race PHOTO BY PAUL ROBERTSON

The alpine leg began with a LeMans start, where racers placed their gear downhill and ran to their respective equipment. Elbows were thrown and at least one run-away snowboard began the race without its rider.

Alpine racers sped downhill before handing off to the next leg of the relay to the Nordic skiers, at the top of the Bear Back Poma.

The Nordic skiers had the most harrowing stretch of the relay. Racers tore down Blue Room to Mine Shaft until they hit the easier Low Dog trail. Ski patrol was prepared for carnage as skiers power-wedged and butt-slid their way down the Poop Chute.

The thunder snowstorm proved fortuitous for the skinny skiers, making conditions more forgiving but still challenging as they plowed through 3 inches of unexpected fresh snow. Nordic skiers handed the third leg off to fat bikers or snowshoers at the Lone Mountain Ranch tunnel, where a huge crowd was gathered to cheer on the spectacle.

L to R: Sam Ried, Denise Simmons, Traci Sessions, Sarah Gaither pose at the finish of the Mad Wolf Winter Relay Race PHOTO BY SAM JOHNSON

L to R: Sam Ried, Denise Simmons, Traci Sessions, Sarah Gaither pose at the finish of the Mad Wolf Winter Relay Race PHOTO BY SAM JOHNSON

The fat bikers and snowshoers charged up the Sleigh Trail, ripped around Kid’s Loop, and crossed the finish line in the main yard of the ranch, where they were cheered in by supporters, and emcee Jeremy Harder.

The Mad Wolf racers proved an enthusiastic and colorful crowd.

Disco dancers, bedazzled movie lovers, and many other great characters hustled their way down the trail along the wild North Fork of the Gallatin River through a herd of elk.

Once back at the Lone Mountain Ranch, racers danced the night away to the Hooligan’s, munching on appetizers provided by the ranch, and drinking Cold Smoke Scotch Ale in exchange for a donation to the Big Sky Food Bank.

The Mad Wolf Winter Relay Race will return next year on Feb. 25. Expect the event to be bigger and better with some course modifications. We’ll see you again next year!