By Meg Gaucher
Special to The Conway Daily Sun
JACKSON — If you are a New England outdoor enthusiast or athlete seeking year-round mountain adventure, you may have skied the Whites — but have you run the Whites? On Saturday, Nov. 7, Run the Whites will host its annual 5/10K Blackout Mountain Race. Runners of all ages and abilities will lace up their trail shoes at the base of Black Mountain to start their ascent at 4:26 p.m.
The course provides sections of verticals and looping turns, making for a fun and challenging mountain pursuit. Each 5K loop is equivalent to 1,000 feet of elevation, making for a 2,000 foot elevation gain for the 10k runners.
The race is kept quiet in the media to avoid large crowds, and runners will be wearing masks until they are safely distanced as they run, walk and race the peak of Black.
Running is experiencing a boom due to the pandemic, and experienced runners are also seeking new challenges, from routes along roads and trails, to the mountains. Whether you’re an ultra-runner motivated to break the course record, an outdoor athlete looking to check off a bucket-list run, or a beginner ready for a thrilling nighttime adventure, you’re sure to enjoy the Blackout Mountain Race experience.
Local legend Andrew Drummond started Run the Whites out of his ski shop, Ski the Whites, in the town of Jackson, New Hampshire when he saw an opportunity to service and showcase the world-class terrain of the White Mountains for runners. Like every passion, Drummond brings to life through organized experiences. Run the Whites events are fun and have captured the hearts, lungs, and legs of the trail and mountain running community.
“Run the Whites really came out of my off-season love for trail running,” said Drummond. “Most skiers revert to biking in the off season — but there’s something about running the mountains, especially at night with a headlamp...it’s a special experience. I wanted to bring that experience to our community.”
When the shop opened in 2016, Drummond proactively combatted the challenge of running a ski shop in the off season by transforming the shop into “Run the Whites” in the summer. The shop provides trail running gear and equipment, and thanks to his long-time girlfriend and US Ski Team Alum, Hilary McCloy, the Ski the Whites calendar is typically chock full of year-round community events to get people outside. In the summer, a weekly run called the Friday Night Vertical series captures the White Mountain weekend crowds and locals alike. Runners are able to come together for a fun run regardless of speed, experience or age.
“The first year, we had close to 40 people. I don’t even count the runners anymore,” Drummond shares. “The whole purpose of the runs we host is to have fun and connect with people, whether you’re here for the parking lot pizza or the race.”
This year marked the third season of the weekly vertical series, which expanded through word of mouth and athlete-targeted app features, like Strava challenges. Verticals this summer were operationally challenged. To accommodate social distancing and safety protocols due to the pandemic, social distancing was encouraged through guidelines and signed waiver from all participants, and run starts were staggered. For example, anyone could show up after 6 p.m. and run Black on their own.
For the running community, progress and breaking personal records (PRs) require challenging opportunities that Run the Whites offers that no other speciality shop in the area does. Drummond has a sweet deal with Black Mountain to put on running and ski events like the legendary Friday Night Lights ski series or the crazy event called the Last Skier Standing. Run the Whites brings runners and off-season skiers to Black Mountain to experience the terrain in a totally different way. Runners are motivated. They want to get outside and crush miles. Many runners linger in the parking lot at the mountain base after they finish for pizza and conversation. It's an experience in itself as the last of the golden summer rays of sunlight linger Black.
Black Mountain has terrain coupled with cold and wind that really caters to the New Englander pride and resiliency. Ski the Whites events bring athletes from all over New England to experience it. California pro skier Colby Townsend visited Black to watch the final skiers left looping Black as part of Last Skier Standing. “You come here to Black Mountain and it’s like, oh, this is where the soul of skiing is,” shared Townsend. “You can’t buy this type of experience with a lift ticket; you need to run it to achieve it.
Ski the Whites was born of Drummond’s personal project of exploring the White Mountain range by ski, foot, or ice climb and sharing his journey through video and photography. He demoed Fischer ski gear through an agreement with the company and transported GoPros and film gear out of the back of his truck to make the 2 a.m. climb up Tuckerman’s Ravine to capture the journey down. His ability to sell the gear helped him stay on top financially and fuel his touring needs. Drummond’s passion project gained notice in the community and eventually led him to transition his project into a shop.
“I knew if I was out there doing what I love, it would work out,” says Drummond. An important element of Drummond’s success in opening a back country shop on the East Coast was his ability to share White Mountain back-country with the local community. Drummond’s YouTube channel has grown over the years and received as many as 146,695 views a month.
“In the back-country community, you usually only see imagery from out West,” shares Drummond. “The White Mountains are right out the back door, and our community needs to see content they can relate to.”
Ski the Whites partners with over 30 outdoor brands that specialize in skiing, biking, and trail running — all suitable activities for the White Mountains. The gear is Ski the Whites community tested and approved. Drummond’s podcast and media work continue to bring people closer to mountain sports, too. What does Ski the Whites offer that no other New England shop does? An honest commitment to helping the community access and enjoy the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
For more information about community events, products, services or coffee, check out their website. If you’re in town, pop by the shop. Andrew is always excited to share local insights and get you geared up and out the back door to the mountains. It’s a spot worth stopping by before your next outdoor trek, guaranteed.
Meg Gaucher is a passionate backcountry runner and freelance communications/event production professional.