For ages, skiers have flocked to the steep, snow-covered slopes of the Wasatch Mountain Range of Utah. Now, a new race series is showing that Utah’s ski resorts have potential for summer mountain running, too.
The Discrete Peak Series began in 2015 with races at Deer Valley, Alta and Snowbird resorts in Utah; however, it is expanding in 2017 to include Arapahoe Basin in Colorado and Alyeska Resort in Alaska. While every race in the series is less than 10 miles, they all boast elevation gains between 2,500 and 4,000 feet. Racers should be prepared for unrelenting climbs and precipitous descents that display “a good mix of singletrack…[and] some light scrambling, where you really need to use your hands and feet and get a feel for exposure,” says Julian Carr, a pro skier and general mountain enthusiast whose Discrete apparel company organizes the series. He sums it up as a “short-distance, maximum-elevation-gain mountain-race series.”
The après race is something that Carr has prioritized. Since the Peak Series races don’t start until late in the afternoon, runners finish at a prime hour for enjoying a beer and jamming out to an on-site DJ. As more competitors make their way back to the resort, the party vibe gains momentum. “The energy is just as high [post-race] as it is during the race!” says renowned mountain runner Joe Gray, who competed in the Peak Series in 2016. “I was surprised to see so many folks hanging around after the event.”
The races are meant to be challenging, but not overly intimidating. “The emerging beginner class can show up to see what they’re made of, without feeling like they’ve gotten in over their head,” says Carr, citing the relatively short distances and on-course support.
A $25,000 total cash purse across the five events will go to podium finishers in the professional category, while the expert and beginner category podium finishers will receive the equivalent dollar amount in gear. There will also be a unique “Middle of the Pack Award,” and a “Lexie Award” for whomever catches Carr’s eye as the unofficial MVP of the day, whether for helping flag the course, biking to the start line or some other good deed.
Peak Series Races
Deer Valley Resort 14K
June 24, 2017 / Park City, UT
2,260 feet gain
The easiest course of the series, this 9.1-mile lollipop makes its way up 9,400-foot Bald Mountain via service roads and wooded singletrack trails that open up to ski runs and excellent views of Mount Timpanogos.
Alta Ski Area 12K
July 15, 2017 / Alta, UT
2,545 feet gain
Starting off at 8,650 feet, this 12K climbs through dense pine and aspen groves, crosses wide-open, wildflower-filled alpine meadows and includes a rugged ridge traverse to the 11,068-foot summit of Mount Baldy.
Arapahoe Basin 15K
July 29, 2017 / Arapahoe Basin, CO
3,050 feet gain
Beginning in the thin air at 10,780 feet, this course climbs through alpine forests to the top of a ski lift, then continues another 1,000-plus feet into an alpine meadow and, from there, a rocky ridgeline for a traverse over to the 13,050-foot summit of A-Basin, the Peak Series’ highest point.
Alyeska Resort 9K
August 12, 2017 / Girdwood, AK
3,100 feet gain
Don’t let the short distance fool you: Discrete’s new 5.5-mile Alyeska Resort race will be one of the most challenging of the series. Starting at sea level, runners attack a steep incline through a dense, mossy forest. Once above treeline, participants enjoy spectacular views of the Chugach Mountains and the Turnagain Arm waterway before topping out above 3,000 feet and bombing the descent.
August 26, 2017 / Snowbird, UT
3,599 feet gain
This 8.9-mile race climbs the flanks of the same Mount Baldy featured in the Alta race, but first adds another, nearly 11,000-foot summit (and 1,000 bonus feet of climbing) into the mix. From Baldy, a steep, technical descent eventually gives way to more forgiving singletrack and dirt roads that snake their way back to the resort.