Patrol Race: Backcountry ski race from Snoqualmie Pass to Meany Lodge

Ski from Snoqualmie Pass to Meany Lodge, over Windy Pass, Yakima Pass and Stampede Pass following the historical Patrol Race course.

THE ROUTE:

The race traverses nearly 20 miles of rugged terrain, primarily following the Pacific Crest Trail, gaining and losing over 4,500 feet of elevation between Snoqualmie Pass and Meany Lodge (historically named the "Meany Ski Hut," and is just below Stampede Pass).  Hazards include avalanche terrain, tree wells, weather conditions, snow conditions and fatigue.  This race first ran in 1930 and was modeled after “military patrol races” common in Europe at the time, but the first of its kind in America.

Course Map:

https://www.gaiagps.com/public/ecobh1ubr38N5byyYh19DWTq/?layer=openhikingmapHD

THE SPIRIT:

This is a team race emphasizing safe and self-supported backcountry touring techniques.  Teams are encouraged to make risk assessments and evaluations of snowpack and terrain during the event as necessary.  To underscore that safety should never take a back seat to your race time, the rules allow for your team to deduct assessment time from your total race time. You are on your own.  Teams are expected to carry what they need to navigate and complete this 20 mile backcountry ski tour without help.   Unlike an individual or relay race, this event is first and foremost about group dynamics and camaraderie.  You must start, race, and finish together.

The race date:

Saturday March 13, 2021.

REGISTRATION:

In order to register for this event, your team will have to complete the following:

  1. Fill out the online lottery form  (one form per team; lottery closes Dec 31st).
  2. Be successfully drawn from the lottery (Jan 7th; you will be notified by email).
  3. Prove that all team members have completed AIARE Level 1 avalanche training or better (an email will be sent to you with instructions after lottery selection).
  4. All participants must become a Mountaineer Member or Guest Member.
  5. Register for the race (link will be provided via email)

  You will need to provide your own transportation departing from Crystal Springs Sno-Park (near Meany Lodge) at the conclusion of your race experience (vehicle Sno-Park passes are required).  It's about 10 miles on I90 from the Crystal Springs Sno-Park (exit 62: the Lake Kachess/Stampede Pass exit) back to Snoqualmie Summit.  Skiing on the Iron Horse trail, which is flat and groomed for cross country skiing, is another option for return to Snoqualmie.

IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW:

This is a team race in which all three team members must start, race and finish together.

This is a true backcountry race where you and your team need to be fully competent in route finding and moving safely through avalanche terrain. Excellent snow safety skills, first aid skills, backcountry skiing skills, equipment and fitness are required on this challenging route.

Each team member must have completed an AIARE Level 1 training course or better prior to the race event.

There will be two staffed checkpoints, but there will be no aid stations along the way - your team is responsible for all of your food, water, clothing and well being for the duration of the race. There is no cell service on most of the route.  

Total on-course times are usually between 5 and 10 hours at a good race pace under good weather conditions. This can be significantly longer if weather or other complications arise. There will be specified cutoff times at the two checkpoints that have to be met for teams to be allowed to continue. Teams that fail to make the cutoff times will be taken to Meany Lodge from the checkpoints via snowmobile (riding or being towed).

Race volunteers will do their best to set a skin track on the route, but winter weather is unpredictable. Losing the skin track or having it become covered in blowing or falling snow is a very likely possibility. Therefore it is critical that your team is equipped and capable of doing your own route finding to the destination or exiting via a bailout route if necessary. There is no guarantee that you will be able to follow a marked trail or skin track. You must be responsible for your own navigation and route finding in the event that conditions make this necessary.

OFFICIAL RACE RULES – SUBJECT TO CHANGE AS NECESSARY:

The intent of this race is to follow the format of the original 1930’s era race as close as reasonably possible utilizing modern backcountry travel gear and safety equipment.

Each team must consist of 3 members. The team members must start, race, and finish together (within one minute of each other). Team members must stay within earshot of each other the entire time. Any deviation from this rule will result in a disqualification.  For safety reasons this rule must be followed.

Safety First:  At any time before or during the race, if you feel you need to withdraw from the race for safety reasons we will refund your race entry fees.  At any time along the route, if you feel the need to evaluate the snowpack or terrain, we will deduct this evaluation time from your total elapsed race time.  Simply take a photo of your group with an identifiable landmark in the background before and after the evaluation and present your findings to the race director at the conclusion of the race.  We will use the time stamp on your photos to deduct the appropriate amount of race time.

Teams that fail to arrive before 1:00PM on race day to Checkpoint 1 or 4:00PM to Checkpoint 2 will be taken to Meany Lodge via snow machine. Any allowances to this rule is at the sole discretion of the race director. These “cutoff times” are for the safety of the racers and the volunteers on the course.

Teams must not accept any assistance outside of their own team members.

Each team member must carry the required equipment

REQUIRED EQUIPMENT:

  • The 10 essentials
  • Headlamp/illumination
  • Steel-edged ski or snowboard touring gear (ski crampons may be recommended pending conditions)
  • Map of the route, compass, altimeter and/or GPS
  • Avalanche beacon, probe and shovel
  • Extra food and water. This is a self-supported race so each team must carry all hydration and nutrition needed to complete the race.
  • First Aid Kit (one per team)
  • Recommended: Personal Locator Beacon (Spot or Inreach or equivalent).

RACE DAY LOGISTICS

The race this year will function more like a self-timed event with teams starting between 6:00 and 8:00 AM and using the Webscorer app to record times by scanning QR codes along the course (marked by GPS waypoints).  The start location will be the same as in years past at Summit West near the base of the Little Thunder chairlift https://goo.gl/maps/L4xgiTcti4z.

We are still working out the details, but race timing will likely be done via the webscorer app which one team member will have to have installed on their phone (bring extra charging battery for phone).

Race-Finish Information

Due to Covid 19 the finish line (near Meany Lodge) will function more like a checkpoint than a finish line.  From the race-finish, racers will continue on for an additional 2.8 miles (mostly downhill) to the Crystal Springs parking lot where you will have arranged your own transportation.

We will post race results online and ship the coveted slices of the rope tow headpole to the winners of each category.

You are responsible for arranging your own transportation before during and after the race.  This includes transportation from the Crystal Springs parking lot near the finish.  Do not forget to get the appropriate parking passes needed to park at Crystal Springs. See this link sno-park for permit and note that you need the Groomed Trails sticker if you are going the season pass route. 

Due to COVID 19 restrictions, only the bathrooms in Meany Lodge will be open.  There is no access to the rest of the Lodge, and no one is allowed to congregate or hang out in the bathrooms.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Can my team have an alternate? You are welcome to have alternate(s) fill in on your team as long as we know well in advance of race day. Let us know at patrol.race.coordinator@meanylodge.org as soon as you know of a roster change so we can get the new team member registered.

Can I stay overnight at Meany?  Unfortunately due to COVID19 restrictions and precautions the lodge facility will not open during the race.

What is an average race time? Team race times are between 5 and 10 hours at a good race pace, under good weather conditions.   Results from previous years are linked below.

Could the race be postponed due to poor weather or avalanche danger? Yes - the race can be postponed depending on conditions.

How do I get more information?  For additional questions you can contact us at patrol.race.coordinator@meanylodge.org  or Facebook page: www.facebook.com/patrolrace

Reminder – you are responsible for arranging your own transportation home from Crystal Springs parking lot.  Do not forget to get the appropriate parking passes needed to park at Crystal Springs. See this link sno-park for permit and note that you need the Groomed Trails sticker if you are using a snow park season pass.   

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

In the 1920’s adventurous Mountaineers scouted an 18+ mile ski route between their two mountain lodges (one near Snoqualmie Pass, the other near Stampede Pass). In 1930, they inaugurated a race over this route. This race was the first of its kind in North America. Three-person teams would start at intervals from the Snoqualmie Lodge over a trail broken by a party that left before dawn. Each person was required to carry a ten-pound pack of emergency provisions and the three team members had to finish within a minute of each other at the Meany Ski Hut (near Stampede Pass). The race ran for twelve years and produced tales of both misadventure and great ski prowess.

Some history written by Lowell Skoog, volunteer Mountaineers Historian, and other Mountaineers members: