What do a peg-legged pirate, Cookie Monster, land shark and a duck all have in common? They all tested their luck crossing the chilly waters of Lake Cushing for The 22nd Annual Cushing Crossing at Squaw Valley on April 29, marking the last day of winter operations.
The conditions couldn't have been better for one of the most anticipated events in the Tahoe area, welcoming participants and spectators to sport sunglasses, swimsuits, costumes and heckling attitudes.
The event, which holds the title as the original pond skim, began 22 years ago as a ceremonial crossing between ski patrollers marking the end of the season. Today, pond skimming is a staple in spring events, with Squaw being the reigning champion.
"What I like about this pond crossing is that it's a real pond crossing. I've done ones in Vail, I've done ones in Steamboat, they trench a hole and it's a little pit. This is the real deal. This is like the pond crossings of all pond crossings," stated Olympic medalist and Squaw rider Jonny Moseley.
With a panel of celebrity judges including Sherry McConkey, Andy Wirth, Michelle Parker, Tamara McKinney and Erik Roner; with Jonny Moseley and Chris "Uncle E" Ernst emceeing the event, there were ample amounts of hilarious heckling and quirky humor.
"This event, truly, I think is like the best event of the year. Today's turnout was ridiculous. I mean, it just seems like it keeps on getting bigger and bigger every year," said Moseley.
According to Amelia Richmond, public relations manager of Squaw Valley, sign-up this year was moved from noon to 9 a.m. Registration was open to the first 50 contestants with more than half waiting in line by 7:30 a.m.
Kendal Naughton kicked it off with the national anthem, gearing up everyone in attendance for a true sporting event. The competition was judged based on four categories: creativity, grace, style and the successful completion of the crossing. There was no shortage of creativity as contestants sported homemade costumes with only hopes coming away partially dry as they waited patiently atop the run.
"You have to get creative, simply put, just get as creative as you can. If you've got a very creative costume on, and you don't make it across, you got to take it with humility. At least you gave it the effort, but there's a bit of humility, even the best have tried and failed," stated Ernst, 1994 champion.
If contestants did go for a swim, ski patroller Ivan McGurk was on his raft nearby to slowly lend aid to the fallen skimmers who were being targeted by snowballs.
The overall winner this year received a 2012-13 Bronze Tahoe Super Pass, with all other categories receiving a $100 cash prize.
The winners and costumes are as follows: Overall, Ben Paciotti, first switch crossing in Cushing Crossing history; women's ski, Shawna Hogan, Swiss Miss Beer Lush; men's ski, Tom Hogan, Chillin' and Grillin'; women's snowboard, Jessica Wilson, Shaun White; men's snowboard, Jeremy Jones, Corky Carrol; skinny ski bonus, Marco Sullivan, highest scoring crosser on skinny skis; unlimited division, Mat Jackson, attempted on ski bike.
"As far as events go, and I've announced over a 1000 events around the world, this is one of my favorite," said Uncle E.
If your swimming abilities are up to par and creativity is something you're not lacking, then don't miss your chance next year at The 23rd Annual Cushing Crossing.