Step 1 Après-Ski Life: Trail Running and a Warm Beer

By Powderhound Matt Sep 7, 2016
Step #1 in Après-Adam’s 12-Step Program for Après-Ski Conditioning: Earning Your Après with Trail Running and Warm Beer at the Discrete Peak Series at Snowbird.
Step 1 Après-Ski Life: Trail Running and a Warm Beer

It’s co-Powderhound Adam Fehr here to share some off-season advice from my alter-ego, Après Adam.

It’s after Labor Day. Summer is essentially over. You've probably used up most of your vacation days. Your bike is broken. The weather is becoming more temperamental. You’re taking less risks because you’ve already jinxed yourself by declining the $20 season pass insurance. And while there's some great fall foliage to ‘Gram, let's be honest, fall is a strange time between summer and winter when a lot of us start killing time until the snow starts falling.

It's also the start of Après-Ski Conditioning Season. With approximately twelve weeks until the start of the season here in Utah, it’s crunch time. Lucky for you, I, Après Adam, have created a simple, 12-Step Après-Ski Conditioning Program to help get you in the best après-ski shape of your life! Happ-è Après! Now let’s get started:

Step 1:

Earning Your Après with Trail Running and a Warm Beer at the Discrete Peak Series - Snowbird

I know what you're thinking, "this is supposed to be an après-ski training post. What the heck is trail running and what does it have to do with skiing?”

Well, I'm glad you asked, my 30-second Wikipedia check says trail running involves running and hiking trails—usually in the mountains. It may have been invented in Ireland or the UK, where they call it mountain running or fell running. It's practiced around the world and has recently seen a surge in popularity in the western United States due to people’s desire run in nature rather than in a city.

Fortunately for us here in Utah, there are a ton of options for trail runners looking to get out of the city and into the hills. From the rolling foothills above Salt Lake City to Antelope Island in the middle of the Great Salt Lake. From the trails of Park City to the top of Mt. Olympus. From the desert trails of Southern Utah to mountains surrounding Cache Valley in Logan. The options for trail running in Utah are almost limitless.

And believe it or not, hiking in the summer is a great way to get in shape for hiking in the winter!

The only drawback to hiking in the summer instead of winter is that you don't get to ski untracked pow on the way down. But as it turns out, you can still have fun running down a mountain, or even up one!

Trail running is becoming a popular off-season activity amongst skiers and snowboarders. Local skiers Brody Leven and Kalen Thorien recently signed on with Salomon as four season athletes. Both started as skiers, before discovering a passion for trail running, climbing and other non-skiing activities. The growing popularity makes trail running a marketable sport to skiers, snowboarders, and other outdoor enthusiasts.

Another local skier, Julian Carr, became such a big fan of trail running that he turned his off-season training into a wildly popular series of trail running competitions, The Discrete Peak Series.

You may recognize Julian, the founder of Discrete Clothing, from Warren Miller and Sherpas ski films. When he's not skiing pow at The Bird and hucking front flips off cliffs in the winter, he turns his attention to organizing, promoting, and competing in the Discrete Peak Series in the off-season. With more of a focus on "pushing peaks" than traditional long-distance trail running competitions, the Discrete Peak Series kicked off with four trail running events in 2015 at Alta, Snowbird, Deer Valley and Crested Butte. They followed that up by organizing three more events this summer at Deer Valley, Alta, and Snowbird.

The goal was to create a fun event that could challenge world class athletes, while remaining accessible to the average weekend warrior.

After receiving an invitation to check out one of the races last summer, I kept tabs on the events, but happened to miss all four races last year and the first two this summer due to scheduling conflicts. With time running out this season, I finally found a Peak Series race that I could attend, the final race at Snowbird on August 28. I originally planned on showing up to Snowbird, taking some photos, talking to friends, sharing some celebratory beers with the finishers, and maybe writing up a little post about the series.

Still, a little voice inside of me kept telling me to register and see if I could survive the almost nine mile, 3600 vertical foot course…. It actually wasn't a voice in my head, but a relentless harassment from Julian via Facebook and Instagram, urging me to sign up and run the race myself.

His final selling point went something along the lines of, "no beer will taste as good as the one you drink after crossing the finish line.” He knows me well. Needless to say, I was sold.

I decided I would try it once and registered for the race the night before the event. Twelve hours later, I found myself walking past the beer tents and bratwursts of Snowbird's Oktoberfest, to instead, run up, around, and down a mountain. Standing at the starting gate amongst Olympians, Ironmen, triathletes, professional skiers and boarders, and other word class athletes, all I could think was, 

“what the hell am I doing here?”

The race started and the Olympians, Ironmen, and other non-humans ran off into the distance. I found a group moving at my same speed and we made our way up to the top of Hidden Peak via Peruvian Gulch and The Cirque. I made it to the top of Hidden Peak in one hour, and twenty-five minutes. My time was a lot slower than average, but I accomplished my goal to not stop moving until I reached the top of the Tram. I snapped some photos and jog-hiked to the top of Mount Baldy. I took a few more photos at the same spot I stood on my last “training” session when I skied Main Chute, back on June 20th. I snapped this photo after receiving an alert saying I had reached the halfway point of the race... needless to say, I was in over my head.

I descended the most technical part of the race, the spine that’s normally part of the Baldy bootpack from Alta. My friend, Jordan, went for a pass and wound up sliding down the rocks on her back. Ski patrol was waiting at the bottom of the section for that very reason, but she declined medical attention and continued down into Mineral Basin.

The run down into Mineral and back up to the saddle between Baldy and Lone Peak was the most mentally challenging part of the race. Something about climbing up two peaks, then running down, just to run back up, definitely took a toll on both my spirits and my pace. I thought about a cold beer waiting for me at the finish line and switched into just-get-this-damn-thing-over with mode, pressing on towards the saddle. After a quick stop at the aid station for some water and energy chews, I said to myself, “it’s all downhill from here”... in the positive sense, or so I thought.

I’m pretty good at running downhill. In the fall, once my mountain bike breaks for the season, I spend a lot of time hiking, or, as my friends call it, “adventure walking.” Normally, I carry a pretty good pace running downhill, but this time was different. Maybe it was the lack of training or simply the 2500 vertical foot descent, but the downhill was a lot harder than I anticipated. My quads and sides simultaneously cramped as I painfully made my towards the bottom of the Tram. I used my last burst of energy to cross the finish line in 2 hours and 52 minutes. My time was slow, but I wasn’t last.

I was greeted with a participation medal, a bunch of high fives, and sweaty hugs from friends and strangers as the DJ played music and the MC announced the finishers. It was awesome!

Instead of the “best tasting beer ever” that I went to all this trouble to experience, I settled for a Hi-Ball recovery drink and water, lots of water. I grabbed a Pro Bar and sat in the grass with some buddies, recapping our race experiences for the next hour or so while the lactic acid built up. It wasn’t until after the awards ceremony and raffle that I remembered to crack my celebratory beer, which by now was a room temperature lager. Fittingly, some other crazy thing the Irish and the Brits invented.

I have to disagree with Julian’s claim that a warm Coors Light was the best beer I’ve ever tasted, but I can say it’s one of the most well-earned beers I’ve ever had.

There's just something so rewarding about "earning your après." Because of the hard work, the warm beer at the finish line was even more enjoyable than a chairlift lager split with your ski buddies. Better than any post-epic-pow-day IPA. Tastier than a top-of-the-skin-track stout. More refreshing than a sun's-out-guns-out-spring-skiing Smirnoff Ice... or so I've heard.

It’s now a week and a half after the race, I can finally walk again. And while I originally claimed competitive trail running to be a bucket list, one-and-done, experience, I could see myself signing up for one of next year’s events.

I can almost taste the celebratory, room-temperature Coors Light just thinking about it.