By Nathan Ham
It was worth the wait even with a two-week delay in the start of the 15th annual Sugar Mountain Adult Race League. SMARL races finally began on January 20 after a delay following some unseasonably warm temperatures that did not allow for optimal ski race conditions at Sugar Mountain Resort.
Each year, the after-work “beer league” for local skiers and snowboarders in the High Country lets racers compete for six weeks for some great prizes and bragging rights at the end of the season. After some much-needed cold weather and brief snowfall, the league got off to a great start last night.
“You can’t imagine how much snow Sugar put down in the last couple of days. They went from not very good conditions to having every snow gun on and making snow. The skiing was good and everybody had a pretty good night,” said Bill Leonard, owner of Ski Country Sports, who co-sponsors the racing league along with Sugar Mountain Resort. “Ski Country Sports is excited about doing this, we have a great time doing it. We have two teams in it and we have a lot of our staff members that like to go out there and participate. It’s a good team-building exercise as well as having a good time out there skiing.”
The racing league usually wraps up in February, however, with the delay, this year’s SMARL races will run into March before a champion is crowned.
Leonard said that they had around 85 to 90 racers show up for the season-opener of what is sure to be another fun and competitive SMARL season.
“I’d say 40, 50 percent of the people have been there every year, it’s just amazing, but we do get some fresh faces for sure every year,” said Leonard. “We have a good time up there. When they bring out the results everybody has to check them out to see where they stand and what position their team is in so there is certainly some friendly competitiveness going on out there.”
Each week, competitors get to enjoy dinner following the race. This week, Sugar Mountain food service provided pizza for everyone.
A new tradition started last year that saw racers get a chance to win special prizes each week in a raffle where donations were sent to three schools in Avery County (Avery High School, Avery Middle School and Riverside Elementary School) that have programs designed to help encourage and get local kids out there skiing and snowboarding.
“Started the raffle again last night and ran out of tickets so we’re off to a good start on that fundraiser for the local school system,” Leonard said.
Leonard wanted to thank racing director Sean McKee and the staff at Sugar Mountain that takes their time to set up the racecourse, timing lines and prepare food for the skiers and snowboarders.
“Sugar mountain had the slopes looking great. It takes a whole team of people from Sugar that participate in helping put this thing together. It’s not a quick easy thing for one person to go out and do,” says Bill.
Photos by Ken Ketchie
Teams on the race course Monday night:
Racer Results – Week One
More Pictures From Monday Night