It’s like skiing a few days in one. And it’s all for a good cause.
The annual 100,000 Vertical Foot Challenge has raised more than $1 million for Make-A-Wish New Hampshire. Last Monday was its 17th year as 36 skiers and riders burned their quads on the famed Lynx trail, cordoned off for them for the day, for nine hours from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to reach the 100,000 vertical mark or 48 runs.
The skiers and riders are the first to come and last to leave given access to the high-speed Wildcat Express quad before and after it’s available to the public.
The event raised around $60,000. Participants must donate at least $300.
“This is a challenging event for all of the participants and many of the hardships they are gong through is a fraction of what our kids go through,” said Make-A-Wish New Hampshire Community Outreach Director Nikki Lyons Lahey. “When it gets really hard, they hear the stories, they know what our kids are going through and that helps them push through the day so they can finish strong.”
She says people who repeat often get their friends and ski clubs involved.
“Because of this event, we will be able to grant about six wishes. That’s pretty incredible,” she said.
Polecat Ski Club with a lodge in Intervale sent six members-five skiing, one volunteering.
That volunteer was Bartlett’s Brette Brickel who helped track participants’ runs. She did the event the past two years with runs of 48 and 49. She was drawn to it because of a cousin taking a Make-A-Wish trip in high school.
Since 1986, Make-A-Wish New Hampshire has enriched the lives of children with life-threatening medical conditions through granting the heartfelt wish of each qualifying child.
“It’s an important fundraiser to me,” Brickel said. “But it’s really a fun day despite the weather, wind, sun and clouds. It’s fun to let loose and ski as fast as you can.”
To do the 48, skiers need each run of about four and a half minutes. That speed might get you noticed by ski patrol any other day. Lynx has a 2,000-plus foot vertical drop.
The catalyst for the event is Wildcat’s own Mark “Homer” Holmes of Shelburne. The well-known ski instructor decided years ago on a personal challenge to ski 100,000 vertical feet in a single day. He did it, and the event developed following his noteworthy feat.
“It’s pretty special,” she said. “You never get that trail to yourself. It’s also nice to have the support from Wildcat and Make-A-Wish.”
The club collectively started taking part two years ago. Skiing Polecats this year were Benjamin Millina, Jason and Marcia Minahan, Justin Veprauskas and Chad Pickering.
Minahan of Wilmington, Mass., was easily spotted with furry ears protruding from her helmet. Club members, intermediate-to-advanced skiers depending on the day, encouraged each other during the season to prepare for this, skiing the Lynx trail to see its nuances.
“We’ve been doing the trail throughout the year, trying to do it as fast as possible,” she said on the chairlift around her 20th run. “I’ve been challenging and pushing myself on other trails as well.”
To prepare, she also took morning ibuprofen and used Icy Hot. Early morning rewards included no other skiers on the mountain.
“That was pretty cool, for maybe five or six runs,” she said. “Then all of a sudden I started noticing other people.”
Berlin’s Rob Munce was taking part for the third time. He was drawn to it a few years ago when a middle-school boy he coached in Pop Warner football was a Make-A-Wish recipient. He saw how important it was. The boy died about two weeks before the 100K event.
“I’ve seen what Make-A-Wish can do and how much it means to the families, so what’s better than that?” he said.
The coach of the Gorham High School ski team and owner of Go Time Restrooms enjoys seeing the same faces each year, and hanging out afterward to share stories. Though they may come from different walks of life, they share a common cause for the day.
“Not everyone can pull this off,” he said. “This is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s like skiing four or five days in one.”
That makes for one epic day.