By Karen D. Lorentz
Spring has sprung and that means Killington’s festive spring events lineup kicks into high gear this Saturday, April 1, with the iconic Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge.
The competition features male and female amateurs in five age brackets ranging from 13-and-under to 50-plus. Judges give points for turns and line, air, and speed. Spectators witness some great control and technical skiing as well as a sense of flair and putting it on the line as competitors go for it — all creating the excitement factor.
The competition begins at 9 a.m. with competitors having one run. The top 32 men and 16 women will compete in a dual format at approximately 12 p.m. Pairs of competitors will run a dual course with sudden death format until only the winners remain. Awards will be presented to the first-, second-, and third-place overall men’s and women’s winners and their names will be engraved on the Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge trophy.
Asked what the Mogul Challenge means to competitors, Olympian Hannah Soar said, “Solidifying one’s name on the elusive Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge trophy alongside generations of great mogul skiers is on the bucket list of many East Coasters. Little did I know that at eight years old the 2008 BMMC would be the first event of many on the path to becoming an Olympian.”
The Mogul Challenge also translates into one gigantic tailgate/snow/deck party with live music presented by Kona Big Wave after the morning runs and again after the finals and award presentations with Jamie’s Junk show from 2:30-4 p.m.
Soar added, “The BMMC is a staple in the Killington community. Growing up in the community with the enthusiasm that surrounds BMMC weekend without a doubt ignited my passion for mogul skiing; the nerves of the competitors, the fun times in the parking lot, and the general community passion for mogul skiing all come together to create the best event of the year.”
Outer Limits, a bumper beast
The ultra-steep Outer Limits debuted in 1979-80, spawning the mighty mogul field and the Annual Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge in 1981. Outer Limits became Donna Weinbrecht’s classroom where she taught herself to ski moguls. [At the time, Killington didn’t have a freestyle team and coaches due to national insurance and injury issues related to inverted maneuvers.] After winning the Mogul Challenge four times, the rules changed to exclude holders of USSA cards. No matter, Weinbrecht qualified for the U.S. Championships in 1987 and was named to the U.S. Freestyle Team.
Training on “all conditions, hard pack to slush to epic powder” and the steep pitch of the trail made her fearless. “After Outer Limits, nothing fazed me,” she said in a phone interview.
In addition to winning the first Olympic Gold Medal awarded for women’s mogul skiing at the 1992 Albertville Games in France, Weinbrecht has won every accolade in her sport, including seven national and five world championship titles and 46 World Cup mogul events.
The three-time Olympian noted Outer Limits changed her life. “I was lucky to be at the right place at the right time when moguls was an emerging sport that led to an exciting and fulfilling life’s journey. The BMMC prepared me for competition pressure. Competing when the locals expected you should win, the pressure was intense,” Weinbrecht said, adding she enjoys leading mogul camps at Killington each winter now.
This year’s Mogul Challenge might propel another aspiring amateur on a journey and life’s dream as it did for Weinbrecht, Soar and other Killington OL bumpers like Chuck Martin, Maggie Connor, and Bobby Aldighieri who went to the 1992 Olympics.
While the online pre-registration closed Tuesday, anyone interested in signing up can go to registration on event day and put their name on the waitlist. (The competition is available to amateurs only — USSA members or anyone who has been a member as a racer in the past five years is ineligible.)
Parking and party tips
The king of bump amateur competitions draws thousands — mogul skiers and mogul fans, as well as revelers to Bear Mountain for the biggest snow and tailgate party in the East.
Whether a repeat spectator or new to this event, it’s good to know about some parking and party tips:
Tailgate set-up begins Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m. No Friday set-up is allowed, Bear Mountain parking gates are locked at 5 p.m. Friday evening.
Free shuttles will run from 6:30 a.m. until after the event to transport guests between base areas.
Bear lifts operate until 4 p.m. but the Skye Peak Express Quad will reopen at 4:30 p.m. allowing guests to ski/ride back to other base areas.
Food is available inside Bear Mountain Lodge in addition to a barbecue on the Bear Mountain deck. Personal consumption of alcohol is permitted, but it’s against state law to dispense alcohol.
Killington requests that all non-service animals be left at home. No donkeys!