Glen Plake and the Gunbarrel 25 return to the slopes of Heavenly this Saturday as part of Heavenly's Spring Loaded promotion. The Gunbarrel 25 is a marathon 25-lap event for the average Joe down the infamous Gunbarrel Run at the base of Heavenly's California Lodge. Participants of all ages are welcome to participate - this includes kids and adults on skis, snowboards, telemark skis, snowblades and any other kind of mountain-approved snow-sliding devices.
I have had the privilege to emcee and announce this great event from the start and it's always a fun and great day doing the play-by-play, run-by-run updates and keeping the crowd cheering on the athletes and they race down the run. It all starts with a personal welcome and hand shake from Glen and a shotgun start in time heats with participants skating to the base of the Gunbarrel Express.
Local "Face Rats" and members of the Heavenly Ski & Snowboard Foundation, as well as returning participants from all over the country have been getting their practice turns and finding their lines this past week on Heavenly's Gunbarrel run. Some have reported the coverage is little thin in some places and, this year, the alternate course down East Bowl will be utilized with using the World Cup Finish Area as the main staging area. Control gates will be set on World Cup Run that will need to be negotiated by participants before skating back to board the Gunbarrel Lift. This will be third time in the nine-year history of the event that this alternate course will be used. "Conditions are great ... actually amazing," Glen said in regards to the snow quality and coverage on the course.
Spectators are welcome to view and cheer on the athletes from the bleachers. Heavenly will set up a barbecue and beer garden at the base of World Cup Run so spectators and fans can enjoy the entire day viewing the event as I update the participant's run from the score board.
"It's amazing that this event is still going," Glen said. "This event is unique in that it doesn't fit into any mold of other events held on snow. The Gunbarrel 25 takes everyone back to the essence of skiing and riding bumps."
A few years ago, when Heavenly celebrated its 50th anniversary, the event pushed limit and the participants to complete 50 laps. Several participants made that mark that year and special recognition and awards will continue to be honored to whoever completes the most runs within the allotted time limit. How many laps can you do down the Gunbarrel?
Event registration is open at the Heavenly Race Department, or the morning of the event in the California Bar in the Cal Base Lodge. All participants will receive a commemorative T-shirt and goodie bag with the event kicking off at 10 a.m., conditions permitting. The weather forecast looks good with partly cloudy skies and temperatures warming into the mid 50s. All finishers receive a GB25 Finisher's Pin and top finishers will have their names engraved on the coveted Gunbarrel 25 plaque on display in the California Base Lodge.
Defending multi-time winner, Janez Demsar, who holds the record for completing all 25 runs in just slightly over 3 hours, has made overtures that he will not compete this year. This leaves the event wide open for other determined participants to get their name engraved on the plaque and receive the Gunbarrel 25 Belt Buckle. Participants will be invited to an awards party, during which top finishers will be awarded, and pasta feed after the event. Skis, ski boots, poles and variety of other items will be awarded and everyone wins some kind of prize.
This past season, Glen has been assisting the Ski Industries of America's Learn to Ski and Snowboard program as their official spokesperson and has attained his Level 3 Certification as a professional ski instructor. His future goals include getting certified to be an international guide in Chamonix, France, where he also has a home and shares winter time in Europe.
I asked Glen if there was any advice for a first-time participant and he replied, "I invite everyone to come out and participate. It's open to everyone. This is not impossible ... and I want everyone to finish. It takes a certain amount of commitment, but is rewarding and fun."
So, bump riders unite. Here's your opportunity to get all the moguls in one day that you ever wanted to ski or ride. Join the fun. Whether you ski five runs, all 25 or more, the Gunbarrel 25 promises to be one of the most unique events you can ever get yourself into.