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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Bill Jennings: Normal depends on your point of view on the slopes

Bill Jennings Correspondent

Sometimes it’s hard to pin down exactly what “normal” is. A strong El Nino – the strongest ever this time – normally results in a warm, dry winter for the Inland Northwest. But in a manner typical for March in these parts, we’ve seen a series of storms and colder temperatures that dropped up to more than a foot of powder on our neighborhood hills earlier this week.

Is that normal? How you choose to solve this existential puzzle could determine which competitive mountain challenge you prefer Saturday, should you choose to accept either one of them.

If you tend toward normal, and are blessed with a robust cardiovascular system, you will be in your element at Silver Mountain’s Wardner Peak Uphill/Downhill. If you tilt away from normal, and can open your gullet like a cormorant, you won’t want to miss the Bavarian Race and Marchtoberfest at 49 Degrees North.

The Bavarian Race combines two behaviors long associated with each other: sliding on snow and chugging beer. While most of us are probably used to enjoying them in that order, the Bavarian Race is your opportunity to do both simultaneously.

In less risk-averse times, the Bavarian Race originated as the Beer Race, founded by 49 Degrees North lifers Eric Alm and Bill Reinbold in 1974. Their vision was a beer-chugging poker run around the mountain. But the resort’s liquor license was restricted to the boundaries of the lodge. The compromise was a team effort to drain a pitcher at the lodge before and after riding the lift to the top and skiing a giant slalom. The fastest time wins.

In 2010, the resort’s insurance company decided it could no longer underwrite the likelihood of skiing with a blood alcohol content beyond legal limits. But like many great institutions, the Bavarian Race has endured. Now the pitchers are filled with non-alcoholic beer. Speaking from experience as a participant in this venerable event, it’s no less difficult to chug than the real thing.

The beer won’t flow until after the race at Silver Mountain’s Warner Peak Uphill/Downhill. This event is a tour of some of the best terrain the resort has to offer. Racers start at the Chair 4 midway and skin a reverse route up the traverse that leads you across the bottom of The Meadows to Silver Basin. The climb begins here – which could be worse – up a moderate slope with an angle too low for the deepest powder days.

The course continues in reverse on the traverse from Silver Basin to your next drop, The Meadows. What goes down must come up – all the way back up to the summit of Wardner Peak. From the top, a drop down the 16-to-1 run, merging with Gold, takes you to the finish.

The Wardner Peak Uphill/Downhill is open to all disciplines, including snowshoes. Snowboarders must either use a splitboard or carry snowshoes. No boot packing is allowed. Snowshoes are available to rent for the event at Silver Mountain Sports by reservation only, if you need a set.

You can register to climb Wardner Peak either online or on race day for $25, which includes a voucher for a beverage at the Finish Line Snow Bar. Register in the lodge for the Bavarian Race from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Your $25 entrance fee is good for the 4 p.m. race and all the non-alcoholic beer you can drink. But you still must be 21 to participate.

At Silver Mountain, a Gore Tex and gaiters crowd will be enjoying post race drinks and music at the finish line. Should you be at 49 Degrees North, goofy Teutonic is acceptable attire at the post race German buffet in the lodge. What’s your normal? Either way, there’s plenty of snow in them there hills. Enjoy it while you can.

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