EVENT: Outdoor Research's Vertfest draws biggest turnout ever, sets avy center fundraising record
Outdoor Research’s Vertfest draws biggest turnout ever, sets avy center fundraising record
Annual NW celebration of ski culture raises more than $15,000 for Friends of the NW Avalanche Center, 50 percent more than 2011.
In its sixth year, Vertfest, organized at Alpental, Wash., by Outdoor Research as the Pacific Northwest’s largest celebration of skiing and riding, drew its largest crowd ever over the weekend of Feb. 18 and 19. This year, it also raised more than $15,000 for the Friends of the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center, well over 50 percent more than fundraising efforts in 2011. A primary goal of this year’s event, along with increased participation, was to increase support efforts for the regional avalanche center.
Vertfest brings skiers and riders together from the frontcountry, sidecountry and backcountry for a weekend Festival of Freeride and Mountain Mettle with clinics, gear demos, concerts and an uphill/downhill race.
This year, 158 people entered the Monika Johnson Memorial Rally; a grueling 2,500 or 4,500 vertical Ski Mountaineering style race. This total was up nearly 25 percent from the previous year. The Stanley Cup Fun Race, a recreational-style race, introduced new comers to the fun of uphill/downhill skiing. Also, clinic and demo participation were both up significantly over the previous year, according to Christian Folk, event organizer and grassroots marketing supervisor at Outdoor Research, a leading independent manufacturer of outdoor apparel and accessories based in Seattle.
“Our goal for this year was to increase the “Fest” part of Vertfest, the part that makes it such a fun, community minded event, and also increase the amount of money we could donate to the Friends of the NW Avalanche Center,” Folk said. “We’re psyched to have succeeded on all fronts.”
That was possible, he said, thanks to more sponsors stepping up to help support the event, along with Outdoor Research. Event sponsors include Alpental, La Sportiva, Mountain Gear, Osprey Packs, PrimaLoft®, Pro Guiding Service, SCARPA, COAST MOUNTAIN CULTURE and Stanley a brand of PMI; libation support was provided by Schooner EXACT and Pinhead Red.
An otherwise stellar weekend took a sobering turn when four people were killed Sunday, Feb. 19, in avalanches in other parts of western Washington.
“I can’t emphasize enough how great it was to be part of another fantastic Vertfest, by far the best one yet. The tragic avalanche accidents on Sunday made for somewhat of a bittersweet weekend but also underscored the importance of NWAC and avalanche education,” said Benj Wadsworth, executive director of Friends of the NW Avalanche Center. “The skiing and riding community really stepped up this year and raised a lot of money at the event. That kind of support is critical to the continued success of NWAC.”
The awards ceremony for the Saturday rally was highlighted by appearances of old friends, such as Lowell Skoog winning the Masters 50+ division. Having a kid seemed to provide inspiration for many as Seth and Holly Davis, parents of a 14-month-old, took the Men’s Race and Women’s Rec division respectively. And Olivia Cussen, mother of an 8-month-old, took the Women’s Race division. Saturday was capped by a great concert by Head Like A Kite and Daydream Vacation.
Sunday saw great numbers for the clinics and also had more than 100 demos to keep things busy. Freeride and backcountry clinics covered everything from resort-to-sidecountry transitions, backcountry terrain selection, companion rescue and ski photography. Ski photographers Grant Gunderson and Jason Hummel were on hand along with freeski athletes Molly Baker, Kim Havell and Zack Giffin to teach and lead clinics. The Splitboard community was also represented by Neil Provo and Chris Tretwold along with top guides from around the Northwest.