The Old Wives’ Tale claims that March can go two ways. . . period. Either, “Come in like a lion, and come out like a lamb”, or “Come in like a lamb, and come out like a lion”. The statistics say that it should be colder at the beginning of March than at the end. But if you’ve lived in the Southeast long enough, you might know that we can have a STORM BENDER anytime/many times in March.
Whichever way you look at it, we’ve made it this far into the year. It’s time to start celebrating the overall season, so far. Many resorts will put on a good spring show for their season finale. . . the annual Ober Gatlinburg Spring Fling was one such festive event this past Sunday, March 6. Let’s dive deep into a full day of fun, with Southeastern Winter Olympic style.
Ski mountaineering race – 7h35-8h55
The 2nd Annual Mogul Ridge SkiMo Challenge was scheduled to begin at the “glow-eyed, bushy-tailed hour” of 7:30 a.m. I drove from Asheville that morning, which required an early morning wake-up call.
Although it is called the Mogul Ridge SkiMo Challenge, unfortunately the course could not include (advanced) Mogul Ridge due to depleted snow base. Nonetheless, the course was actually awesome and included nearly 1,000 feet of climbing per lap.
To the sound of the mass start, the objective was to complete as many laps as possible in 1h20. The trick was that only completed rounds counted, so it was important to have an idea of how long each round was. . . that is, an unfinished last lap had to be avoided.
We started by going down (easy) ski school, skinned (intermediate) Lower Bear, (intermediate) Upper Bear and (intermediate) Ober Chute. At the top, our lap was counted by Ski Patrol and we transitioned downhill. There was a small uphill skate segment before dropping (intermediate) Castle Run to complete the downhill portion of the tour.
I was able to do 5 laps in total, with just over two minutes to spare, to win the race (with a nice hat and hoodie, to boot). The second completed 3 laps. The rest of the riders completed one or two laps, respectively.
Giant Slalom race – 9.30am-11.30am
The giant slalom race was featured on (intermediate) Castle Run. The format was your combined time of two races, on a slush-filled course. In the first run, I posted a time of 18.08 seconds. I took the red lift back to the top and tried again, armed with a better idea of how to ski the course. I was delighted to see that I lost a full second of my time and skied a time of 17.08 on the best of my two runs. My combined time put me in 3rd place overall, out of a few dozen competitors.
High Ollie Competition – 12pm-1pm
Last year I tied for second in this event out of probably over 20 skiers and snowboarders. After a few pretty tired legs I knew it was going to be tough considering most of the guys in this event are half my age!!! The warm temps made the run super smooth and slow. . . not ideal for getting the pop needed for a high ollie height.
With around 20+ skiers and snowboarders this year, the heat was on the cards. Basically, they just raise the bar. . . you have two attempts at each height, before being eliminated. I stayed with the pack, until it was down to just three of us. The guy who won last year is solid, and he took first place again this year. Myself and another contestant battled it out to see who finished second or third. In a sudden death (i.e. trial) format at a set height, I was able to take second place and $50 cash.
Pond Skimming – 3pm-5pm
As always, the crowd pleaser is the skimming of the pond. The trick to successful pond skimming surfing is to get more speed than you think you need. There were many baptisms that day, but those who crossed the icy waters had to hike, right from the start of the race.
Another pro tip is to use your boards or skis that have more surface area. This will help you plane the surface. . . just like skipping a stone on water. Bonus if you have a board or skis that have more “rocker” than “camber”, similar to a form of water skiing.
Closing – 5:30 p.m.
At the end of the day, the emcee handed out awards, cash prizes and swag. He thanked the sponsors but was a little gloomy and said if they only had 57 ski days this year (compared to over 100 last year). Someone shouted in the crowd and corrected the emcee and said it was actually 57 AND A HALF DAYS. . . Lo and behold, the wind was at its height this year in Ober Gatlinburg.
But wait, there are more Spring Flings! . . .
Here is a small calendar of some upcoming spring festivals. Try YOUR luck at some of these similar events.
Mount Timberline – Saturday March 12
Snowshoe Mountain – March 18 to March 20
SCHEDULE OF WEEKEND EVENTS
FRIDAY MARCH 18, 2022
CARDBOARD BOX CONSTRUCTION
5:30-8:00 p.m. – Meet at the Shavers Center to build your sled for Sunday’s competition. We’ll provide the cardboard and supplies so you can build the fastest sled in the world. We even store your sled until Sunday’s race which is at 11:00 am on the Skidder trail.
SATURDAY MARCH 19, 2022
The ski season has many great traditions and none are greater than skimming the spring pond. Don’t miss this celebration of games, costumes and contests. Competitors will be judged on both costume and style, so be sure to bring both. Pond skimming will take place in the Ballhooter/Boathouse area.
10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. – Registration at the track near the Lower Ballhooter lift. Registration is free but places available are limited. Arrive early to reserve your spot. Helmets are compulsory. Anyone under the age of 18 must have a guardian sign for them.
12:45 p.m. – Line up for the event. If you’re wearing a costume, show up at 12:45 PM to join the costume parade for a chance to win the “Best Costume”.
1:00 p.m. – Beginning of the Pond Skim competition
Prize giving will take place on the Boathouse Deck after the event.
Award categories include:
– King and Queen of the Pond
– Youth Center
– Best Disguise
– Most Sorry Swimmer
SUNDAY MARCH 20, 2022
SLEDGE RACE CARDBOARD BOX
Test your homemade sled on Skidder. Prizes for the best decorated and fastest sled will be awarded.
9:00-10:30 a.m. – Race registration at Shavers Center Plaza
11:00 a.m. – Start of the race
Prizes for the best decorated and fastest sled will be awarded.
Appalachian Ski Mountain – March 26 and 27
Winter isn’t over until we say so! Join us at ASM on March 26 and 27 for many fun and free events for the whole family.
Saturday March 26
10 a.m. – High Ollie Contest
11 a.m. – Impossible Rail Session
12:30 p.m. – Derby of cardboard boxes
2 p.m. – Big Air Skiing & Snowboarding
4 p.m. – Lowering of garbage bags
Sunday March 27
11 a.m. – High Ollie Contest
1:00 p.m. – Pond scum and costume contest
4:00 p.m. – Chinese descent
Registration for all Meltdown Games events is FREE. Participants can register at the lodge on the day of the event.
All guests who have purchased a ticket for the Sunday session can transfer their ticket to Saturday or another day of the next season free of charge.
See you soon on the mountain!