So, you think you’re tough right? You can fly up a rope or smoke a 5k on the treadmill? Indoors, in your climate controlled gym, with your water bottle next to you, and your music pumping in your headphones? Well the winter OCR season is here and gaining popularity. You can crush a course when it’s 80 degrees but how about when the wind chill is barely in the teens? The Abominable Snow Race held at the Grand Geneva Ski Resort in Wisconsin on January 28th offered just this challenge. Nearly 2,500 athletes ventured to the snow-covered resort to test themselves against the hills, well-placed obstacles, and the climate.
With the temperature’s in the low 20’s and the wind chill around 12 degrees ASR started off their second annual race at 8 am with Coach Pain behind the microphone doing his best to keep a lively, but cold crowd pumped up. The lone elite wave was packed with athletes from all over wanting to test their mental and physical toughness!
Starting off with a snow packed run up and around one of the ski slopes, ASR led athletes through a series of low crawls and over-under-throughs to thin out racers before setting off along the 4.4 miles of wooded trails of the Grand Geneva Resort. The constant elevation change along the very technical trails certainly was a test of an athlete’s trail running ability. The first of ASR’s signature obstacles was up next: The Alaskan Oil Rigs. This consists of a vertical climb up a man-made rig to a bell ring at the top, providing a unique climbing challenge. Back on the frozen trails racers came up to a tractor tire flip, 3 times down and back. This proved to be a slight bottleneck with racers waiting 3 deep for an opportunity to complete this challenge. An extra tire or two will easily solve this problem in the future, but it did provide racers with a small breather. Now back on the trail, we circled around back in the direction of the resort where the ASR version of the Bucket Brigade waited. ASR chose to use packed snow as the filler in their buckets. If you carried the bucket on your shoulder and spilled some you got a chilly wake up call.
Now back on the trail, we circled around back in the direction of the resort where the ASR version of the Bucket Brigade waited. ASR chose to use packed snow as the filler in their buckets. If you carried the bucket on your shoulder and spilled some you got a chilly wake-up call. A series of climbing barricades was the next obstacle up for racers as ASR brought us up to another one of their signature obstacles; The Cliffhanger. The Cliffhanger is a traverse wall separated by a 12-foot suspended section of wood that an athlete had to cross to get to the rest of the traverse wall. It was a great way to change up the normal wall traverse!
Now back to the ski slope, ASR challenged racers with a slippery log carry around the hill, and then it was on to a bit of fun. Racers had to grab an innertube and climb up to the top of the ski hill for a thrilling high-speed slide down. After dropping off our tubes we were back into the woods and trails which again led us away from the resort. Three sets of 5-foot-high hurdles were placed in our path leading up to a balance beam walk with log in hand. A 20-burpee penalty was in effect for any elite racer who failed any obstacle, and there were plenty of burpees being done here. A 9-foot inverted wall traverse tested your grip and climbing skills before heading for a run through the winding forest trails. Another one of ASR’s unique challenges now put before us was a sling shot type event. Targets were placed a short distance away and racers had to grab a sponge ball, load in into a large sling shot and fire away. It was a “luck” obstacle, almost like the Spartan spear throw.
Now curling back on our final trip back to the ski lodge, ASR placed the Rocky Sled Pull. Sleds needed to be loaded with sandbags and dragged along a course around the forest and back to the start where the next racer could use them. After another series of trails, we came back to the largest ski slope where ASR really tested racers. Enjoy a climb up snow-packed, steep hills? Great! Two sets of steep climbs, the second leading up to an additional A-frame cargo climb on top, exhausted your legs and back. Once complete, a racer had to navigate back down the steep slope and up to the final ASR obstacle. A slip wall was all that was left between a racer and the finish. But the steep incline of the wall, along with the constant blowing snow on the wall made this wall a brutal climb!
A location change to this year’s event to the Grand Geneva Resort was an awesome idea from race CEO Bill Wolfe. The elevation changes really made the event tougher and more exciting. Parking and pics were free at the event and their race swag was on point. At the merchandise tent, ASR sold flex fit hats, custom ASR compression gear, and many more awesome items. The festival area was loaded with vendors and was packed with racers and their families. A kids Yeti course was offered and warm locker rooms provided. I found the ASR to be a must-do race in the Midwest. It is super challenging with some fun things thrown in. I would even recommend traveling in from far away for this OCR. For those who really want to test themselves in the winter elements, this is the one to do.
Photo Credit: Scott Brackemeyer