Vertically challenged descend on Snowbasin

(Nick Short/Standard-Examiner)
Skiers and snowboarders participate in the Vertical Challenge at Snowbasin...
Story by Jeff DeMoss
Standard-Examiner staff
February 27, 2013
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SNOWBASIN — At age 16, the only ill effect Patrick Pehrson was feeling after a long day of skiing was some mild soreness in his knees.

For his father, Rex Pehrson, it was a slightly different story.

“It beat me up,” Rex Pehrson said. “My three kids all outskied me today.”

For the Pehrsons and many others, the last Tuesday of February has become something of a tradition. It’s the day every winter that Snowbasin hosts the Bob Aamodt Vertical Challenge, essentially the skiing equivalent of a marathon in which participants spend six hours skiing as many vertical feet on the slopes as they can muster.

Event founder and namesake Bob Aamodt, the owner of Knox Capital Group in Farmington, said he got the idea several years ago while brainstorming about how to stage a different type of corporate-sponsored event.

“I was so sick of golf tournaments,” Aamodt said. “I get invited to a golf tournament every week during the summer, and I’m not even a golfer.”

He is an avid skier, however, and knowing many others who enjoy spending time carving the slopes, decided a day dedicated to skiing was just the ticket. The teams-of-four concept was borrowed from golf, where players typically play as a foursome.

The Vertical Challenge works like this: People get together in teams of four. Each participant is equipped with a tracking device that measures how many vertical feet they cover during the day, as well as other factors such as speed and total distance. Team members are required to stick together. At the end, the total number of feet covered by each team is tallied up, and the top three teams are recognized and awarded prizes.

But don’t call it a race, Aamodt said. The main function of the event is to help a cause near and dear to his heart, the Boy Scouts. All proceeds from registration fees and sponsorships go to programs that help low-income and underprivileged kids attend scout camps and activities that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.

On Tuesday, the sixth annual Vertical Challenge raised about $15,000 for the scouts. Aamodt said the number of participants and amount raised has grown each year.

“In our first year, we had six or seven teams,” he said. “This year, we had more than 40.”

Most of the money comes from corporate sponsors who pay the registration fees for clients, vendors and employees to participate, but some teams, like the Pehrsons, are made up entirely of family members. The event is held on a weekday because of its corporate atmosphere, whereas weekends tend to have more of a family feel, Aamodt said.

While it’s technically not a competitive race, there are teams who like to shoot for the top prizes — and perhaps bragging rights. This year, a team of F-16 fighter pilots from Hill Air Force Base took first place for the third time by skiing more than 179,000 vertical feet combined on the day. The second- and third-place teams — representing Treehouse Athletic Club and Mainstay Investments — logged 153,000 and 149,000 feet, respectively.

The Pehrson family, in its third year at the event, logged a personal best of about 110,000 feet.

“We did all the required runs to meet the challenge, and even got in a couple of extra runs,” Rex Pehrson said. “We took a shorter lunch this year to make sure we got it done.”

While its primary purpose is to help scouts, Aamodt said the Vertical Challenge is also about having fun.

“Everyone who comes loves it. You can really feel the energy,” he said. “You don’t have to be having fun to do good, but if you can, you might as well.”

See more photos of the Vertical Challenge

Jeff DeMoss


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