By Jesse Wood
Once again without any advertising, the Sugar Mountain Adult Race League sold out within a week of registration opening, according to Matt Leonard of Ski Country Sports in Banner Elk.
While the first week of SMARL is still a few weeks away, Leonard said he’s “always excited” for the start of another SMARL season, especially considering the forecast. So far, only about two inches of snow have fallen and snowmaking temps have been few and far between. After this welcomed rain spree, below freezing temps and snow are in the foreseeable forecast.
“The forecast looks good,” Leonard said. “We are excited to get some cold weather. It looks like the cold is here to stay.”
Now in its 14th year, the Sugar Mountain Adult Race League – known as SMARL – is described as an underground beer league for local skiers and snowboarders. Capped at about 100 participants to ensure everyone gets off the slopes at a reasonable hour, the competition sees low turnover year to year and is held on six Monday evenings in January and February at Sugar Mountain Ski Resort.
Since the inception of the race, the league is something that has taken on a life of its own. For instance, the snowboarding team, Modern Rustic, tailgates before some of the races with the likes of steamed oysters and jambalaya.
This activity is part of the camaraderie that’s always mentioned when folks talk about the Monday night beer league. After each race, the SMARL competitors grab a bite to eat and/or a drink and brag about the downhill shredding that took place earlier.
Andy McDaniel, a local snowboarder who once toured the pro circuit for a couple years, has participated in SMARL since about the beginning. Apart of the Modern Rustic team, McDaniel has been around the sport since before snowboards were allowed on all the slopes in the High Country.
“[SMARL] has done more to bridge the gap between skiers and snowboarders than anything really,” McDaniel said.
When quoted above, McDaniel and SMARL teammate Donnie Hefner were being interviewed about the new USASA series they’ve just brought to the High Country, a series that begins this winter. Now, the USASA isn’t a beer league; it’s the real deal as far as competing on a regional and national level.
But Hefner said the aspiration for the new Southeastern USASA series is to become popular enough through word-of-mouth to feature a mandated cap on participation, sort of like what SMARL has achieved over the years.
“[A cut-off point] that’s what we aspire to,” Hefner said.
If you are interested in competing in SMARL next year, stop by Ski Country Sports in Banner Elk or Sugar Mountain Ski Resort and ask about SMARL. If you are interested in the new USASA series, click here.