It was great while it lasted, but after six years, two World Cup events and many exciting moments, the Black Diamond PowderKeg has become history and will not be held this year. Sigh.
I was involved with the PowderKeg as the Course Setter & Technical Director and one of my favorite aspects of the race was working with Butch Adams (Race Director) and Colleen Nipkow (Queen of Everything). It was a great event and brought people in from all over the U.S. and different parts of the world.
The course went through various iterations with each year being slightly different than the last. The original course started at Alta, crossed through the backcountry into Solitude, then climbed back out and finished at Brighton. In subsequent years it started and finished at Alta, as much for logistical simplicity as anything else.
For me, the event was always a nail-biter as our policy was that we definitely hold a race and not cancel it, which is easier said than done when the avalanche danger was shooting all over the board with either too much snow, too much warming, or glaze ice conditions. Racers always rallied with the last second changes and aside from a few cuts and bruises, we never had a serious injury. (wheesh!)
Setting the course and holding the race took a small army of volunteers, or which we had a core group of about 60. I may be biased, but having attended World Cup events in Europe and many races in the U.S., the PowderKeg was very well run, thanks to Jen Logan (Volunteer Coordinator), Colleen Nipkow and all of the people who helped out. Thanks again everyone!
I would usually start marking the course a few days in advance, and of course, that is when it would start snowing, so I would end up recruiting help to redo it over and over right up to the last second. The race started right at sunrise to help clear people out of Alta before it opened, and my favorite moment of the event was standing at the top of a distant checkpoint with a group of volunteers and hearing over the radio that the race had begun. At this point it was like watching a domino maze topple in front of you as there wasn’t much you could do to change the outcome once it started. The year that the start went through a field of ice moguls and almost wiped out half the field was memorable, but everyone survived and made it to the finish.
A huge thanks goes out to Black Diamond for hosting it for so many years and for Patagonia’s continued support! There were some mighty fine memories.