Our winter season is only three days old, and we’re already rocking some of the most open terrain in New England! That quick start is a testament to our amazing snowmakers, and their nearly-supernatural talent for burying terrain faster than any other resort out there.
We’ve reached that time of year when every new cold front brings us one step closer to the start of snowmaking.
Although temperatures need to drop just a bit more before we can fire up the guns, our snowmakers are already deep in preparations for the upcoming winter. Check out the video, get stoked, and get ready.
We’re truly psyched to be hosting the O2X Summit Challenge here at Loon on October 18. If you’re unfamiliar with this new event, it’s a totally unique mix of off-trail bushwhacking, stream crossings, and more than 2,000 feet of ascent in little more than five miles. A souped-up hybrid of trail running and obstacle course racing, you can think of O2X as the Minotaur of the running world.
For an inside look at the beastly O2X course, read our interview below with Adam LeRoux and Paul McCullough, the former Navy SEALs who designed the Single Diamond and Double Diamond O2X courses here at Loon. They’re also the guys who, along with partners Gabriel Gomez and Craig Coffey, founded the O2X Summit Challenges races series.
Read on, and get ready to race.
How are the O2X Summit Challenges different from a Tough Mudder or Spartan Race?
Paul – One, there’s no manmade obstacles, so it’s not an obstacle course. We like to say that O2X takes trail running off trail, and it’s a unique experience. What we do is we look at a mountain and we try to expose racers to all the natural terrain that exists. So what we don’t do is we don’t just run up the ski slopes or stick to manmade trails, or even old logging trails. We put a lot of time and effort into developing these routes with mountain operations guys and then a lot of the experience we have in our backgrounds, and using Google Earth and other technology we’re up and down these mountains as much as possible. We try to find as many terrain features as we possibly can – from glades to rock faces to stream crossings. We try to make the most challenging way to the top.
Paul – I think one of the things that differentiates O2X in general is that every course we have is going to be extremely different. We based them on the diamond system for a few reasons. One, so that it’s obtainable for some people that maybe want to start off with a Single Diamond – maybe a little less mileage, a little less vertical. It [the courses] also have the ability to go Double Diamond and Triple Diamond, because it lets a more advanced athlete train for it. One of the really unique features at Loon, specifically, is that fact that we’re going to hit all three peaks on the Double-Diamond course. So we’ll hit South Peak, then we’ll hit Loon Peak, then we’ll end on North Peak. It’s almost entirely off trail, a lot of glades.
And then the Single Diamond will hit two of those peaks [South Peak and Loon Peak]. We start on one side, and we’ll work our way all the way across the landscape, hitting South Peak and working our way across. I think in general it’s going to be tons of off trail, and the ability to get exposure to all three peaks – it’s pretty rare.
How should I train for this?
Adam – It’s definitely going to challenge you more aerobically than everything else. So you stick to increasing your running distances. The single diamond course is three to five miles, but running-wise, it feels more like five to seven. I would say incorporate a lot of body weight strength in there as well, a lot of hip flexor strength, a lot of hamstrings. It will definitely help along the race. Any time you can get out and run trails or hills, that’s going to help with ankle stability, foot stability, and calf stability as well. Any time you can get off the pavement will probably be extremely beneficial.
We heard there’s going to be a ‘Base Camp’ at the race as well. What’s that going to be like?
Adam – Base Camp is all sorts of local food and beverages from local vendors. Basically we’re trying to bring the local community in, we’re trying to have an economic impact in the local area. Also what’s really unique is we’ll have an eco village within our Base Camp. We’re striving to be a no-waste event. We have an awesome partner – Reverb. We call them our Eco SWAT Team. Reverb was started by Adam Gardner from Guster, and his wife. It’s a nonprofit to help green events. We’re their first partner as far as races, and what we’re doing is we’re trying to limit the amount of waste. We’re trying to educate and give back to some local nonprofits that support the environment. We’ll also have a live band, DJ, we’ll have local beer and wine and hopefully a distillery in there too.
And there’s camping, too?
Adam – Our Base Camp starts on Friday, so we welcome everybody to come out for a day-and-a-half O2X experience. You come in [Friday] and registration starts at 4 p.m., you check in, and then camp out. You’re going to be camping out right next to the river, which is probably one of the best Base Camp locations that we’ve seen in any of our races, any of the mountains that we’ve worked with.
It’s real beautiful down there. It just gives racers an opportunity to camp out the night before, spend the night, and then wake up and have some breakfast and get on for a challenging course, a challenging race.
On October 18, Loon Mountain will host a stop on the innovative O2X Summit Challenges race series. When the race gun sounds, runners will climb more than 2,100 vertical feet, bushwhack through dense forest, and tackle a host of all-natural obstacles on their way to the summit of Loon Mountain. Think of it as a mashup of trail running and the Monster Mud Run – with all the obstacles designed and built by Mother Nature.
Founded by three former Navy SEALs (Gabriel Gomez, Adam La Reau, and Paul McCullough) and a recovering attorney (Craig Coffey), O2X Summit Challenges are centered on the core belief that natural terrain is both the most challenging – a near-vertical hill for strength, a fallen tree for balance or a rock field for dexterity. We recently sat down with Craig and Gabriel and asked them how they came up with the idea for the O2X Summit Challenges, what the course will be like, and where the event fits into the competitive world of obstacle course racing.
So what are the O2X Summit Challenges? How is it different from other obstacle course races?
Craig - You can start to think of it as the intersection between obstacle racing and trail running. So combining the best of both worlds.
It’s essentially taking a look at Loon Mountain and saying all the obstacles you’d ever need to create a challenging race are right there. We don’t need to dig mud pits or put monkey bars up or have a high wall in your parking lot. If you take people on a properly-designed course on the mountain it’s going to be challenging and fun.
Gabriel – It’s for all levels, too. We’ve got a Single Diamond race and a Double Diamond race. The Single Diamond race is for people who may want to do a 5k-type race. It’s very doable. The Double Diamond race is for people that maybe have done a 10k or half marathon or some triathlons and want to challenge themselves even more.
Where did you get the idea for this?
Gabriel - There’s four of us and we’ve all known each other for quite a while. We all have similar backgrounds. The thing that we had in common beforehand was that we’re all outdoor, athletic runners. We do a lot of different kinds of races. Craig and I have literally run 10 or 15,000 miles together, and a number of different marathons together.
We thought this is something we have a passion for, and given our backgrounds we thought there was a great, fast-growing sector in the obstacle course race market. The beauty of what we’ve done is every mountain is different. People want to ski Loon one day, they may want to ski Sunday River later. All our races, all our courses are going to be different, because each mountain is different.
Loon’s O2X Summit Challenge is happening on Saturday, October 18. When are the other races?
Gabriel – Our inaugural race is September 13th at Sugarbush, and then two weeks later we’re going to be at Sunday River, and then we’re coming here on the 18th of October, and then we’re going to Windham New York the week after that.
How is Loon’s course different from the other race courses?
Gabriel – We didn’t want to just go up a green run, then a blue run, then a black run. You’re going to really be going through unpaved trails that these guys [O2X co-founders Adam La Reau and Paul McCullough] have found with the [Loon] mountain operations team. These guys know the mountain a lot better than we do. We just know how to expose and exploit the natural terrain that you guys have. Every mountain is different, so if you do our race here at Loon, it’s going to be significantly different than what you do over at Sunday River. Just like if you ski, you’re going to have different runs, and a different kind of experience. It’s meant for a wide spectrum of people, whether you’re a basic beginning runner, or someone who’s done Ironmans or ultramarathons before.
What’s this ‘Base Camp’ I keep hearing about?
Craig - Base Camp [located by the Governor’s Lodge] is going to be comprised of a village of environmentally responsible food vendors, and that means a local farmers’ market. Maybe the local dairy farmer can bring in chocolate milk, or a local burrito maker, for example. We’re going to source as much as we can locally.
Speaking of environmental responsibility, you’re putting a big emphasis on sustainability at your races. Tell us about that.
Craig – There’s a really strong environmental component to what we do. One of our pledges to the mountain is that we’re going to leave the mountain and the community better than we found it. It’s a commitment that comes from our race – we’re not digging mud pits, we’re not scarring the mountain, we’re just taking the natural terrain and running over it. But also we’re creating a no-waste event. We’re partners with EPA WasteWise, which means we’re going to strive to have a no-waste event. We’re partners with One Percent for the Planet, so we’re putting our money where our mouth is. We’re contributing back to environmental causes and we’re also partners with Leave No Trace, which is a Boulder, Colorado-based nonprofit that teaches people how to camp and be outdoors responsibly, and it teaches companies like ours how to hold a race that’s responsible.
What concrete steps will you take to ensure that the race has a minimal impact on the land?
Craig – So one of the things we’re doing to take action on that is contracting with Reverb, which is a nonprofit greening consultant. They’re coming in and telling us exactly what steps we need to do to mitigate and reduce waste, to leave as minimal an impact as we can on Loon – from things as granular as composting, to encouraging carpooling to how to design the course in a way that doesn’t alter some of the ecosystem. So we have a very strong environmental thread to what we’re doing.
Want to run the O2X Summit Challenge at Loon Mountain? Watch the video above and Sign up today!
The winter of 2014-15 is just a few short months away, and we’re already hard at work on a bunch of important resort upgrades. By the time you hop on the gondola this winter, you’ll notice several key improvements here at Loon:
1. Increased Snowmaking Efficiency
This winter, early-season snowmaking will get a significant boost thanks to 50 new HKD KLIK semi-automated snowmaking hydrants on Upper Picked Rock and Lower Bear Claw, two key early-season snowmaking trails. By drastically simplifying the snowmaking process, these semi-automated hydrants will allow us to better take advantage of brief snowmaking windows in November and early December.
We already know these hydrants are effective: thanks to the installation of 100 HKD KLIK hydrants on the mountain last summer, Loon opened for skiing and riding on November 8, 2013, the earliest top-to-bottom opening in the resort’s history. With 50 additional hydrants on the slopes this year, our snowmakers plan to open even more terrain more quickly in the early season – and deliver better snow all season long.
2. Terrain Parks
The Burton Lil’ Stash, our newest terrain park for kids, went through a heck of a growth spurt this summer.
By the time the park opens this winter, young riders will discover expanded terrain, with a new series of wooden berms that ride like a banked slalom in the woods. In addition to these new terrain features, kids will also discover cool new animal carvings to go along with larger-than-life carvings of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.
3. New Website
Off the hill, you’ll notice that our website, LoonMtn.com, got a complete makeover this summer. The completely redesigned, responsive website makes it easier than ever to find information about snow conditions, events, and more. The site responsive design also means that you’ll have the same great viewing experience, whether they’re using a desktop, tablet, or mobile device.
4. Make a Donation, Save the Forest
When Tropical Storm Irene unleashed flooding and devastation across New England in August 2011, many areas of the White Mountain National Forest were badly damaged. In response, Loon has partnered with the National Forest Foundation, a Congressionally-chartered nonprofit working to repair damaged hiking trails, improve wildlife habitat and restore national forests across the country – including the White Mountain National Forest.
Guests can choose to make a donation to the NFF’s Ski Conservation Fund when they purchase passes and eTickets through Loon’s e-Store. Donations will be matched 50% by the NFF, which works with local partners to complete restoration projects in the White Mountain National Forest.
Brace yourselves. The 4th Annual Monster Mud Run is happening this Saturday, July 12!
For the last 12 months, we’ve spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about how we could make the Monster Mud Run more challenging. With help from our way-too-enthusiastic mountain ops crew (some of these guys are snowmakers and know a thing or two about toughness), we’ve designed a course that will deliver more mud – and more fun – than ever before.
Here are just a few of the 20+ obstacles you’ll encounter in this year’s Monster Mud Run.
- Septic Slide - This grossly-named feature is new for the 2014 race – and, thankfully, includes no actual septic elements. Instead, racers will run down Lower Picked Rock as snowmaking guns spray them with copious amounts of water. The steep slope and shoe-sucking mud will prove a challenge, but a giant slip-and-slide should make things go more smoothly toward the bottom.
- Babe’s Flea Bath - After working up a sweat on the course, you’ll jump into an ice-coldsnowmaking pond. The bravest competitors willfight off a full-body-brain freeze as they swim 20 yards to the far side of the pond. If this obstacle looks like too much for you, there’s no shame in walking around. We won’t judge.
- Little Sister Warzone – In the winter, Little Sister is the mellow home to our Burton Progression Park. In the summer, this sun-baked field turns into a muddy No Man’s Land. Crawling on their hands and knees, racers will maneuver through 100 feet of mud, hay bales, tarps, and netting. You’re welcome.
- Strange Cargo – Climb up a cargo net, just like in gym class – except now you’re old. So very old, and so very muddy.
- Horse Barn Hurdles – This crowd favorite rewards flexible hamstrings and a complete lack of dignity. Hop over several chest-high horse stalls in quick succession, and hope for the best.
- Lincoln Logs – Tired yet? Crawl over and under this energy-sapping row of logs, and then come talk to us.
***Remember – these six obstacles are just a small fraction of the challenges you’ll encounter in this year’s race. With more than 20 obstacles spread out over the 5k course, the 4th Annual Monster Mud Run promises to be muddier, crazier, and more fun than ever.
If you’re anything like us, you’re probably counting down the days until next winter (when you’re not ziplining or doing other awesome summer stuff, that is). In that same spirit of seasonal longing, we’ve decided to take a look back at the winter of 2013-14.
In a previous blog post, we took a look at the our top 10 Instagram posts of the winter; here, we’re reviewing the top 5 powder days of the season. So sit down and relive the magic with us. By the time you finish, winter will be that much closer.
1. February 14, 2014 – Mother Nature showed us some love on Valentine’s Day with 16″ of fresh pow. Thanks to nearly a foot-and-a-half of pure stoke, we ditched our significant others to grab first chair. This is one Valentine’s Day when we didn’t mind hearing the word ‘dumped’.
2. December 15, 2013 – We woke up to 10″ of fresh that morning, with another 6″ falling by the end of the day. We’re big fans of the skier in this photo, who’s rocking a Duck Dynasty-caliber snow beard.
3. March 20, 2014 – The first day of spring gave us a storm that none of us really expected. Forecasts the previous day were calling for just a few inches, but we woke up to 10″ of fresh the next morning instead. At first chair we made a bee-line to Big Dipper and enjoyed one of the most surprising powder days of the year.
4. January 3, 2014 – Powder days aren’t always measured in feet. A cold storm courtesy of the infamous Polar Vortex brought us about 6″ of hyper-light snow that exploded at every turn. This skier showed us how it’s done on Upper Flume, proving that 6″ of dry powder can ski like a foot, while a foot of wet, dense snow can ultimately feel like a lot less.
5. Dec. 30, 2013 – 2013 came to a end with 10″ of snow and bitter cold temperatures. With a 7:13 a.m. sunrise and heavy snowfall, eager powder seekers had to contend with poor visibility and 15 degree temperatures to get the goods. Ask anyone who scored first tracks that day, and they’ll tell you that putting up with a bit of December gloom was well worth the reward.
If you ever get tired of daydreaming about next winter, remember that Loon is offering a ton of awesome activities this summer. You’re already wasting time on the internet, so you might as well fritter away a few more minutes learning about our Aerial Forest Adventure Park, ziplines, gondola rides, Monster Mud Run, and other fun stuff.