By Jesse Wood
Jan. 8, 2012. Now in its eighth year, the Sugar Mountain Adult Race League (SMARL) is a continuing success.
Held on Monday nights in January and February, the skiing race league features friendly competition, sort of an after work beer league for locals where competitors meet for food and drinks after the races, and it’s become so popular that the league sells out before winter begins – even without any promotion whatsoever.
“It’s definitely an underground community series,” said Kim Jochl of Sugar Mountain Resort, the league’s host. “It doesn’t need to be promoted. Everyone knows about it and is excited every year to get on a team and participate.”
Bill Leonard, owner of Ski Country Sports, one of the main sponsors of the league, agreed and said, “There’s a lot of demand. Unfortunately, people procrastinate and there is no room left.”
The league is capped at 100 racers, so the races can take place in a reasonable amount of time. Leonard credited Sugar Mountain Resort for “keeping the race running” and glitch-free since day one. He mentioned that the race always starts and finishes on time, that the conditions are great and the timing is correct.
“A lot of things could go wrong, but Sugar starts every night at 6:30,” Leonard said, adding if not for the great organization of the league by Sugar Mountain Resort, SMARL wouldn’t be as popular as it is.
But others contribute to the success of SMARL as well.
Leonard and Jochl mentioned the businesses that sponsor the food after one race on Monday night – Banner Elk Café, Bellas Italian Restaurant, Ski Country Sports and Sugar Mountain Resort.
At Sugar Mountain, for example, Keith Lane has been manager of the resort’s food concessions for decades and for the past eight years, he has contributed to the good eats after the races. He’s just one of the many people who work behind the scenes of SMARL, the ones who don’t receive the powder-shredding glory.
Among the announcers working the event are Rick Bowen and Marissa Green, and Dave Amman, owner of The Bayou Smokehouse and Grill mans the courtesy patrol. Another one of those folks is Carrie Leonard, the daughter of Bill. She does all the registration for SMARL at Ski Country Sports – takes the registration fees and lays out and prints the forms before they are distributed at the ski shop.
Susan Leonard, the wife of Bill, also helps out. She freezes her tail off each Monday to keep the race flowing by directing the competitors down the mountain. Mark Russ, the manager of Ski Country Sports, is also involved.
“It’s not just one person, it’s a group effort,” Bill Leonard said. “In the same way, there’s a lot of local support – from individuals to businesses – and a lot of camaraderie. Folks want it to succeed and do well because they want to keep doing it.”