Sierra-at-Tahoe Ski Resort's chairlifts may be closed for the season, but the slopes are not. And though there won't be boarders and skiers sliding down the Lower Main this Saturday, there will be more than 450 racers hitting the pitch for an inaugural Sierra Recon event.
The multi-distance obstacle race pits participants against some of the toughest obstacles Mother Nature and the sadistic Sierra Recon crew can devise. In this case, the obstacles include the Infamous Drop-Zone, a 100-foot gauntlet racers must navigate while getting pelted with sponges filled with ketchup, mustard and whipped cream; the Wall, a 12-foot park feature six miles into the race; and a giant slip and slide.
With 16 obstacles in the first six miles, the race promises to be a leg-burner. The most masochistic racers can elect to do the 11-mile black diamond course, with more than 3,305 feet of elevation gain and 20-plus obstacles. For the slightly less intrepid, Sierra Recon also offers a seven-mile blue course and a four-mile green course.
The event is run entirely by Tahoe residents, and though it may sound similar to the Tough Mudder - an obstacle course designed by British Special Forces - there are a few key differences.
"We ran the Tough Mudder last year and we wanted to do our own," Dan'l Preston said.
Preston founded the South Lake Tahoe contracting company Preston Development and is one of the partners in the Sierra Recon event.
"We wanted kids to be involved and we wanted to make it spectator-friendly," he said.
Unlike the Tough Mudder, most of the action on Saturday will take place in a central spot. And the Sierra Recon offers two race courses designed especially for children from 4 to 14 years old.
For those true competitors out there, the Sierra Recon is a timed race, not just a muddy challenge. Sean Sweeney, another partner in the event and the director of skier services at Sierra-at-Tahoe, estimates finishers for the green course will come in under two hours. The black, he said, could take almost four.
Sweeney has been working on the course for about a month. He estimates total production costs at around $20,000, with sponsorship from PBR - there will be a keg-carry at the base of the mountain - Sierra-at-Tahoe and the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.
To cut costs and carbon, the crew has used almost 100 percent recycled material to build the obstacles.
"It's crazy how green we are," Preston said.
He bought a couple of new two-by-fours, he said, and that's about it.
Ultimately, both Preston and Sweeney agree that the race is about the kids. Sierra Recon is a Tahoe Tri Club event and was developed in the same spirit as the Tahoe KIDS Tri Series.
"We tried to create something affordable and family-friendly. We all have kids, and that's really why we do it," Sweeney said as his 9-year-old son Leyton flew down the slope in a slip and slide test run.