Black Diamond PowderKeg R.I.P.

| November 11, 2008 | 5 Comments

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.

Not only were the Euro racers ungodly fast, they were also a blast to hang around with afterwards.

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!)

Dylan Freed helping set up the PKeg on a typical prerace day.

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.

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Category: Events, Racing

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

Comments (5)

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  1. Jared says:

    That sucks. That really really sucks, and it just ruined my night and my whole winter. Why? BD’s choice or yours?

  2. Andrew says:

    It was a combination of Patagonia pulling their major sponsorship, which led to BD rethinking their involvement. Considering BD’s new skiing mantra is “It’s all about the down” and that the majority of the winners were on Scarpa, Dynafit and Trabs/Atomics, it is very gracious of them to have hosted it for as many years as they did. I’m not involved with the BD skiing program, but something like a Big Mountain Freeride Comp would probably make more sense for them, but that has its own issues as well.

    I really enjoyed the challenges of putting it on and there is a chance that someone else will take it over. A big part of the racing in the US is providing insurance, which often times can be done through the sponsoring company (BD) and/or the host ski area (Alta).

  3. DG says:

    Bummer. The single trip I made to do it was the “ice mogul” year (07). I was reconning the course the day before and took a header on said moguls (how you take a header going up is a question you would only have answered after you saw my technique …..), pulled out the shoulder and had to watch from the sidelines the next day. Now I can’t redeem myself. Double Bummer.

    Thanks BD for the races, but since its “all about the down” now, I’ll be buying Trab …… :-)

  4. jerimy says:

    Powder Keg is back on according to the ussma. Any idea who the new sponsor is?

  5. Andrew says:

    You if you are interested. :)

    I think Voile, Alta, Blue House and a few others are interested in the event.

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