The annual 100K Vertical Challenge at Wildcat Mountain has been a staple for 16 years.
On Monday, the Make-A-Wish New Hampshire fundraiser crossed the $1 million mark.
That’s because of skiers like Kevin Elwood of Boxford, Mass. In his 10 years of doing the event, he’s raised around $640,000. Looking for a way to give back, he stumbled across the challenge and realized he could get a lot of people interested in it and to support him.
The challenge isn’t a race, but kind of an alpine March madness as some 28 dedicated and charitable snow lovers spent nine thigh-burning hours from before the lifts opened to the public until after they were closed to the masses. They rode up the high-speed Wildcat Express and skied down the cordoned off Lynx Trail covering about 2,100 vertical feet in each run.
To reach the coveted 100,000 vertical feet goal, skiers had to do at least 48 runs, with 50 allowed as the max. Each run was about 11 minutes, 15 seconds — approximately seven minutes up and 4.5 minutes down.
Each participant raised at least $250 for the charity which enriches the lives of children with life-threatening medical conditions through granting a wish to each qualifying child.
Elwood says it’s a long day. For him, he just keeps moving.
“You get to 30 runs pretty easily I think,” he said on the chairlift ride. “During the last 20 your body is saying it’s ready to stop so you just have to stay focused.”
Organizers and volunteers man a corral, marking off runs and doling out beverages and snacks. For many skiers, the mornings before the public arrives are special.
“It is kind of nice to get out early with the quiet and kind of having the mountain to yourself,” he said.
Elwood had praise for event organizers, volunteers and ski patrol.
“They all make it a lot of fun and worthwhile for us to come out,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of opportunity to meet some of the families over the years and that’s the best part when you can see the impact all this fundraising is having on the families.”
Wildcat ski instructor Mark Holmes of Shelburne has participated in all but one since the event’s inception.
The man behind the event’s origin, Holmes has had to slow down a bit, but still enjoys the speed. During the event’s inception, many participants were trying to do as many runs as they could, around 60 or so. But this was changed for safety concerns.
His time on snow as an instructor helps him prepare for such a long day on the slopes though his body takes a little more time to recover.
Even someone who has skied the Cat for more than 30 years, the event provides a different perspective.
“The thing about today is that normally the patrol would be pulling our passes for what we are doing,” said Holmes. “But today they are encouraging us. There are so many things about skiing that are great — family, eating well and sleeping well — but speed is fun, too.”
There’s also the people side of the event, going inside the lodge and interacting with the families and children benefiting from the fundraising.
“They really like that they are treated just like their other siblings,” Holmes said. “All year long they are treated special because of whatever is going on in their lives. But when that vacation comes— a lot like to go to Disney — they are just one of a crowd.”
But riding that chair solo can get monotonous for some, so Berlin’s Rob Munce, the Gorham High School ski coach, and Greg Gledhill of Sutton, Mass. decided to ride together.
“it’s a lot better riding the chairlift with someone for 48 runs,” said Gledhill.
Munce was doing his second Challenge; Gledhill his third.
“After this is over, I’ll be hitting the couch,” Munce said. “The nice part about this is when you get spaced out on the trail. It’s fast, but it’s all about line. There about nine turns that you need to make.”
Munce also skied with two of his racers: Ben Harmon and Melvin Olsen.
“This really is a great cause plus you get like five days of skiing all in one day,” Gleghill said.