Big White hosts first annual Chairlift Challenge adventure race

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85 athletes spent Saturday morning battling the elevation and the elements in BC’s latest adventure race, the Chairlift Challenge at Big White Ski Resort.

Cold temperatures, limited visibility and occasionally heavy snowfall made for extremely tricky conditions during the adventure race, which traversed every type of terrain – from rough access roads to alpine meadows strewn with boulders.

Runners had three race lengths to choose from: a 2km youth race, a 6.5km race around Rhonda Lake, or a 9.5km loop around the mountain which traversed the top of every chairlift at Big White.  

The winner of the full 9.5km loop was Charles Lalande, a Big White firefighter and avid trail runner who managed to complete the race in just one hour, one minute and 43 seconds. 

Charles, who has previously been on the Canadian national team for sprinting, said that the hardest part of the race was the uphill section to Gem Lake: “That was challenging, especially because visibility was so bad. But the downhill was nice and easy after that!” 

First place in the women’s division of the full race was taken out by Sarah Mcleod, who completed the loop in one hour, seven minutes and 32 seconds. While Sarah skis at Big White during the winter, it was her first time exploring the resort in the summer. 

“I loved it. It was gnarly as it started to snow halfway up, but it was so fun,” Sarah said. “I do a lot of mountain running but never before at Big White – we’ll be back again.” 

Racers in the 6.5km race were equally competitive, with men’s winner Evan Hansen completing the challenge in just 51 minutes and 34 seconds. Kathy Dickson, winner of the women’s division, was right behind Evan with a finishing time of 52 minutes and 41 seconds.

The younger adventure races weren’t left out of the action on the day, with 15 kids taking part in the 2km youth race. Nicholas Mitchell won first place in the boys division with a time of 26 minutes and 10 seconds, and Justine Labante came in first in the girls with a time of 28 minutes and 18 seconds.

As grueling as the event was, the family element was ever-present, with various local families signing up to take part in the race. Father and son team, Herb and Chris Harburn, took on the 6.5km race together and said that it was a fantastic challenge.

“I’ve been skiing at Big White for 25 years and this was the first time I’d seen Rhonda Lake,” said Herb. “We do other adventure races all over BC and this is on the same level. We’ll be back next year and bringing a few others!” 

All winners went home with prize packs from Big White Ski Resort and The Running Room. Every racer was also able to enjoy a barbeque in the Village Centre Mall after the race, with a free kids carnival and live music running throughout the afternoon.

Vice-President of Hospitality at Big White, Trevor Hanna, said: “Mother Nature played right into our hands and allowed us to host a great event. The Chairlift Challenge tradition has been born and is set to continue every year from now – we look forward to making the 2016 event even bigger and better!”  

Go here to see more photos from the event.

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