1-3-20 Basch Vertical Challenge

The popular Vertical Challenge returns to the valley this season with three stops at Cranmore, Black and King Pine. (VERTICAL CHALLENGE PHOTO)

Frank Tansey is a familiar name to many in the ski industry here in the valley. The Attleboro, Mass., native founded the popular Vertical Challenge race series some 30 years ago that continues to stop at several White Mountain ski areas. The amateur ski and snowboard races are family-friendly events, designed to foster a love of the outdoors while also giving participants a chance to give back to others.

In November, Tansey was honored — along with another recognized name to many in the valley ski industry, Kathe Dillman, because of her work with Waterville Valley — during the annual BEWI luncheon at the Boston Ski and Snowboard Expo for “their lifelong passion for snowsports.”

That passion will be felt across some 20 ski areas across the Northeast this winter during the Challenge, which gets under way tomorrow (Jan. 4) at Windham Mountain in New York before stopping at Cranmore Jan. 11. It skirts the valley on Jan. 12, with races planned for Mount Abram, about an hour away in Greenwood, Maine.

“The Vertical Challenge definitely has a following, and we do see people who come out specifically for the event,” Cranmore Marketing Director Becca Deschenes said. “In addition to being a race, it’s a high energy event for our day visitors as well, with sampling and their apres party on the third floor of the base lodge.”

The Challenge creeps closer again Jan. 31 at Cannon and down at Gunstock in Gilford on Feb. 1.

“The Vertical Challenge generally brings a following of people that we don’t normally see here, so for us, it’s a good opportunity to introduce some new folks to Cannon,” emailed Cannon Marketing Director Greg Keeler of Conway. “It’s also good for the local Cannon community as we don’t have recreational racing on a regular basis, so this is an easy way for pass holders and other guests to take advantage of a free, fun race.”

He said there is a ton of equity built into that brand, so people familiar with it know what they are going to get in the way of a well-run race with tons of prizes.

It’s back in the valley Feb. 21 at Black Mountain.

With finals scheduled for Jay Peak in northern Vermont on March 28, the last chance to qualify will be at King Pine on March 14.

The King Pine race coincides with the local fundraiser Cynthia’s Challenge (March 13-14), a 24-hour ski-a-thon that was created in an effort to ease the financial burden upon children and their families associated with specialty medical needs. This year marks its seventh year. More than $310,000 has been raised to benefit local families since its inception. This year’s recipient is Evelynn Bunnell, 15. A Kingswood high school student with quadriplegia, cerebral palsy, secondary and extreme prematurity, epilepsy, vision abnormalities, cognitive impairments, ADHD and anxiety. Her family needs a wheelchair-accessible van for her transport.

King Pine Marketing Director Thomas Prindle says Cynthia’s Challenge became a much larger cause and is now a recognized non-profit organization with a volunteer board whose donate their time and effort to see that 24-hour ski-a-thon event and benevolence continue. There is also a snowball effect that occurs with the previous year’s recipient families and their friends getting involved to help the next year’s fundraising efforts.

He also praised Tansey and his crew for being instrumental in making the event work at King Pine.

“Aligning the Cynthia’s Challenge event to occur with the Vertical Challenge event has proven to be the proverbial rising tide that helps to raise all boats,” says Prindle. “It’s a great day and a great cause and we’re looking forward to hosting this year’s event to help Evelynn Bunnell and her family.”

Not only do valley residents often travel to other regions to participate in the series, the races bring skiers and snowboarders from away to area mountains for the event.

The challenge uses the NASTAR systems and has participants taking two runs down the GS course. There are prizes galore to be won as well. There are multiple divisions from 6 and under to 76-plus. The races are free but a valid lift ticket or season pass is needed. Learn more and register at ski-vc.com.

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