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Kyle Miller Races Back to Rope Tow Roots at Meany Lodge
Posted on February 28, 2014

It’s been a few weeks since we bumped into Kyle Miller and Jason Hummel at the Outdoor Retailer trade show. But while the snow was sparse in the Pacific Northwest, Kyle and Hummel went on the road. The touring supergroup road-tripped to Jackson Hole and to Montana and Idaho before landing back in the PNW for an epic throwback race from Snoqualmie Pass to Meany Lodge, one of the original ski areas in Washington State that dates to the pre-highway, Stampede Pass train tunnel days. This is Mr. Miller’s report of old-school locomotion, sketchy rope tows, and an overnight visit to a forgotten era of Washington’s downhill culture. —LYA editor

Volunteer Staff at the Rope Tow Shack

Words and Images by Kyle Miller

A couple of weekends ago, I was fortunate enough to be involved in a race that has deep historic roots in the great Pacific Northwest. Started in 1930 by members of the Mountaineers, the Patrol Race was a 17-mile ski traverse from Lodge Lake at Snoqualmie Pass to Meany Lodge at Stampede Pass. Its run would only be for 14 years, but the tales of adventure and misadventure would stand the test of time. The route traveled along both the Pacific Crest Trail and snow-covered logging roads until arriving at Washington’s oldest ski resort—Meany Lodge—which consists of three rope tows and a couple hundred acres of steep, tree-covered slopes. Not much, if anything, has changed at Meany since those pioneering days.

I received an email from Nigel Steere early in the season stating that he wanted to bring the Patrol Race back. He was wondering if I could come up with a three-person crew to fill one of the twelve spots. After a few emails, my friends Jason Hummel, Oliver Lazenby and I created a team consisting of a splitboarder, teleskier, and AT skier.

The PNW had been in a drought, so it was nice to see over a foot of new snow when we lined up at the starting gate. The 11 groups were staggered by 15-minute intervals and, after a parking nightmare, we were the last group to go. For the first few miles, we skinned past Summit West ski resort and on to the old-growth forest of the Pacific Crest Trail. It was fortunate that the new snow had fallen, because otherwise we would have been skinning on dirt while making our way out to the Snoqualmie Nordic roads. After a mile of enjoying groomed roads, we made our way back onto the Pacific Crest Trail and through the rugged high-country crux, passing numerous groups along the way. The minutes turned into hours as we made our way back onto the Forest Service roads, watching snowmobiles cruise by. We finally made it back onto the Pacific Crest Trail, with our final descent to Meany Lodge via a large group of powerlines. It was here where I finally transitioned my splitboard into snowboard mode and made turns down the last thousand feet of powder, still finding untracked right next to the rope tow, and reaching Meany Lodge in a total time of 7 hours and 29 minutes.

The race was amazing, but it was only one of two reasons I was out there. For many years, I had heard of Meany Lodge but had never experienced it, so we made the decision to stay the night and ride the rope tow the next day. That night we celebrated the event and ate food with a hundred other like-minded families, friends, and skiers of all ages. It was a good-hearted community and everyone made us feel at home from the moment we entered the building. That next morning, we all ate breakfast and fired up the rope tow. I’ve seen nutcracker rope tows in New Zealand and standard rope tows in Canada, but this thing was intimidating, running at 16 miles per hour and straight up 400 feet of steep, tree-covered slopes. I stared at that thing for 20 minutes before finally committing and holding on for dear life, as I rode up with only one foot strapped into my snowboard. It took a few tries before I finally made it to the top and was able to start checking out the numerous runs that had gotten their names in the early ’20s. The twenty of us shared untracked slopes all day before making our way back to the lodge and finally down to the parking lot, where a car was waiting to shuttle us back to our vehicle via I-90.

It was an honor to be involved with the race and with Meany Lodge since it has very deep roots in the PNW ski culture. The race was an amazing experience and a great way to see new terrain in our own backyard. In the end, we took second place out of ten groups–not bad for a trio of teleskier, AT skier, and splitboarder.

Kyle wishes to thank Nigel Steere for reviving this throwback race. For more info on the race, check out Lowell Skoog’s site, and for more info on staying and shredding at Meany Lodge, check out the Mountaineers site or the Meany Lodge page.

 

Author: - Friday, February 28th, 2014
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