Two years ago I received a message from Willy Bartlett, the Silver Mountain marketing coordinator, telling me about the First Annual Uphill/Downhill race. The idea was spawned by Silver Mountain patroller Drew Mahan several years prior. I had heard of such races elsewhere, wherein participants use their touring gear to skin uphill to a given point, transition to downhill mode, and continue like this until the finish line is reached.

This event intrigued me because it was hosted at my home resort on Wardner Peak, on in-bound, winter-hiking-accessed terrain. The inaugural race attracted 14 skiers, one snowshoer, and me on a split board. It consisted of climbing three quarters of the way up Wardner peak; transitioning into downhill mode and riding to a pre-set location; and transitioning several more times to finish with a ride down the face of Wardner to the finish line, where beers and cheers awaited the finishers.

Not long after, Bartlett said the event was going again, and they had learned a bit from the first event. This time the course was fully on the front side of Wardner to allow easy spectator viewing from start to finish.  It would include more beers and grills for hamburgers and hotdogs, as well as a small change to the course outline. Also, there would be three separate categories: Hard Core—three laps for a total of 2,025 feet of vertical, Soft Core—two laps for a total of 1,350 feet, and Leisure—one lap for a total of 675 feet. The year-two turnout increased to 23 participants, a mix of skiers, split boarders, and three snowshoer’s carrying snowboards. One certainty about the Uphill/Downhill is that many show up for the fun and camaraderie (although some take the race seriously).

Now going into the 3rd year, the Uphill/Downhill is morphing into the Silver Mountain Backcountry Weekend. Set for Feb. 10-11, the event will include two days of activities consisting of an On-Snow Avalanche Clinic, presented by Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center (IPAC) and National Ski Patrol (NPS). The clinic will benefit even the most novice backcountry user, and an avalanche transceiver park will be open to anyone who wants to learn how avalanche transceivers, also known as beacons, work. There will also be a deep burial beacon search and recover competition. Concluding the weekend events is the Uphill/Downhill race.

Bartlett is stoked about the competition. “We’re lucky to have a great area for backcountry riding,” he says. As backcountry skiing and snowboarding have become more popular, “A lot of people are curious about it— they just don’t know where or how to start.” Willy notes that “This event gives the opportunity to team up with knowledgeable and experienced backcountry users and avalanche professionals,” as well as meet like-minded backcountry enthusiasts— all in one place.

Learn more about the Silver Mountain Backcountry Weekend at Silvermt.com. //

Larry Banks is an accomplished splitboarder who co-founded PanhandleBackcountry.com. His last article for Out There back in January 2017 highlighted splitboarding in British Columbia.