SNOWBASIN RESORT, Utah — A stream of runners filled the Green Pond, Porcupine and Last Chance trails at Snowbasin Resort this weekend. More than 800 runners took on the challenge of running the inaugural Ragnar Trail Snowbasin Relay, and I participated.
This trail relay was vastly different than the well-know Ragnar Relay Series. There was no pavement, stop signs, runners in bunny suits or decorated vans on the trail relay.
All the teams stayed in one central location called Ragnar Village, and all eight runners (four on ultra teams) ran each of the three trail loops. All of the runner hand-offs took place at a central exchange in front of Earl’s Lodge. Live music, video boards with race times, food, vendors and massage stations were there as the next round of athletes warmed up just outside the exchange gate.
The trails were silent. I turned my iPod off this race and rediscovered how awesome trail running can be, especially at night when it’s just you, the sound of your feet hitting the dirt trail and the sounds of the forest.
Steven Aderholt, director of trails for Ragnar, oversees the six new trail events. “It’s a different running experience. We came up with the concept of expanding the road relay series to trails over a year ago, and so far it's been a success. We’re attracting runners who want to try something new.”
The course covers 14.6 miles with more than 2,400 feet in elevation gain spread between three challenging trails they call the Green, Yellow and Red loops. The Yellow Loop was a crowd favorite that overlooked the beautiful Ogden Valley and Pineview Reservoir and covered 6.3 miles with more than 850 feet of elevation to climb.
“The trail series attracts runners that love connecting with nature," Aderholt said. "So combining camping and trial run all in one place has been a big hit.”
The people were the one commonality between the two events. The excitement and courage was contagious. Runners of all abilities were there for the same reason — to test their limits and those of their teammates. Runners from other teams helped each other throughout the course with water, replacement lights when they broke and encouragement to just keep moving forward.
Tanner Bell, president and co-founder of the Ragnar Relay and Trail Series said, “We figured that around 50 percent of the runners at the relay today are first-time trail runners. It’s exciting to see the dedication from these first-timers. The response from the runners to the new trail series has been great.”
Ragnar hosts 21 road relay events nationally and now has six trail events. The Ragnar team is looking to expand even more over the next few years. McDowell Mountain northeast of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Vail Lake Resort, Calif., between Los Angeles and San Diego will round out the 2013 trail series. They’ve added Zion Ponderosa Ranch again to the 2014 schedule, and the additions of Snowmass Resort, Colo., and Appalachians Big Bear Lake, W.Va., are sure to draw big crowds.
“We’re also very committed to our sustainability initiative," Bell said. "Our goal is to have as minimal impact on the environment as possible. The focus is on educating our runners that recycling, use of solar energy to power as much of our equipment as possible, and staying on marked trails can all make a big difference.”
While the trail relay is a vastly different running experience than the road relays, it has found its place in the Ragnar family of relays. The mountain setting was perfect, and the athletes made the experience something to remember.
Bill Quick, an Idaho native, studied communications, history and business at the University of Utah. He is the Sr. Director of Marketplace Operations at Deseret Digital Media and Deseret Connect Contributor. Email him at email@example.com