The 15th annual Vail Winter Uphill was held Sunday February 20, 2022 at Vail Ski Resort in Vail, CO as a fundraiser for the US Mountain Running Team. Participants ascended 2,200 feet on Vail’s world famous ski slopes two hours before the resort opened for operation. The race began at the bottom of the Eagle Bahn Gondola and finished at the top of the gondola, taking racers on an all-uphill journey consisting of “Blue” and “Black” ski runs.
One of the most unique aspects of this race is that it allows participants to “pick their grip,” meaning that they can choose to run/snowshoe or ski/splitboard with skins to reach the top. The race is divided into “Open,” “Ski” and “Split Board” divisions and awards are given to the top age-group performers in each division. Depending on race day conditions, runners or “skinners” may have an advantage. It’s an exciting competition to see which “grip” performs best on the day.
The 2022 race conditions favored runners. The hard-packed, freshly groomed corduroy snow allowed runners to stay atop the snow more frequently than in fresh powder years which favor skiers and split boarders. Out of the 140 total participants, sixty-nine competed in the “Open,” sixty-four in the “Ski” and seven in the “Spitboard” divisions. The day was full of impressive times and six skiers and seven runners finished the course in under forty minutes.
Both the mens’ and womens’ open division champions, Tayte Pollmann and Kim Dobson set the fastest times of the day in 31:58 and 32:55 respectively using shoes with traction devices. Dobson shared her thoughts on the race, “I’ve done this race five or six times and it’s one of my favorite events. It’s so beautiful and for people like me who don’t downhill ski, it’s one of the only chances I have to be out here on ski hills to see Vail’s beautiful mountains and snow. It’s unique because you can run or ski up and it’s super challenging but so rewarding once you reach the top. You can’t beat the views of this race!”
The men’s ski division winner, John Rauen, finished with the third fastest time of the day in 33:31. Genevieve Harrison won the women’s ski division in 42:15 (the eighteenth fastest time of the day). Chris Lindly and Jessica Sweetin were the top splitboarders with times of 59:21 and 1:18:45.
The race also attracted several of Colorado’s top trail runners including open division winners Dobson (Pikes Peak Ascent record holder) and Pollmann (Bronze Medalist at the 2017 World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships), as well as legends from the sport’s past such as Anita Ortiz (Speedgoat 50K record holder), Mike Kloser (World Mountain Biking Champion, accomplished adventure and trail racer), and Bernie Boettcher (2003 USATF Masters Mountain Runner of the Year).
Ellen Miller, race organizer, spoke on the history and importance of this event in the American trail running scene, “Hooker Lowe and myself started the Vail Winter Uphill race in memory of our dear friend Lyndon Ellefson back in 2008. Lyndon was a pioneer of the US Mountain Running Team and gondola foreman here in Vail, CO. Our race goes from the bottom of the gondola up to the top at the Eagles Nest, and we designed it so that the athletes could ‘pick their grip,’ meaning that they could run up on snowshoes, skis, splitboards, depending on the conditions of the day. It’s fun to see athletes of all ages from eight years old up to seventy five, and of all abilities. We have everyone from elite runners to people that have never climbed a mountain like this before. After the race, we have a huge community breakfast where we have awards. It’s a very meaningful event for many of us who have been participating in the race for a long time. It continues to be a fundraiser for the US Mountain Running Team and for that reason it’s a very dear event to my heart.”
Proceeds from this race will help raise money for U.S. Teams to compete in upcoming international competitions including the 2022 International U18 Mountain Running Cup and the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships.
See full race results on the Vail Recreation website.