The Last Skier Standing
The Last Skier Standing – The Ultimate Endurance Test
You gotta get up, to get down. In simplest of terms, that is what The Last Skier Standing race is all about. The second annual endurance event took place last weekend at Black Mountain in Jackson, NH.
The race is the brainchild of Andrew Drummond of Ski The Whites, and is the skiing equivalent of an ultra marathon, but without a predetermined finish line.
The format on paper sounds pretty simple. Open to men and women, competitors must telemark, split board, or skin up the mountain and ski back down. It’s just over a mile, and a thousand feet of elevation each way. Each participant must finish the course within an hour. And then to continue, must be in the starting area prior to the next lap start on the hour. The race is over once there is only one person left in the starting area and that person completes their final lap. At 10am on Saturday, 82 athletes took off, with the same goal, to be The Last Skier Standing.
More than a Race
The Last Skier Standing is a lot more than a race. There are battles within the war. You’re fighting the elements in the cold, fighting the mountain uphill, and facing demons within to fight on for just one more lap.
“The whole idea of this event is to push yourself,” Andrew Drummond announced addressing the start of the event. “I think a lot of you will be surprising yourselves today, because this format is meant to really tap into that next level of what’s possible through pacing. Be responsible, have fun, and thank you for coming to this crazy event.”
And he’s right – this event is crazy. Last year’s winner did 34 laps! That’s 34 hours. There are no sleep breaks. These athletes strap on headlamps when the sun goes down, and continue through the night. They hope to finish their laps early, and sleep or eat or use the bathroom for what few minutes they can before the next lap is upon them. But that’s just it. There is no finish line. You decide your own fate, your own determination of success and torture. It’s a masterclass in the strength of the human spirit and the soul of skiing.
And then there were two…
After 38 hours, and just as many laps Chris Saulnier, who was celebrating his 32nd birthday on the course, gave in to the call. His day was over. 38 laps and he was done. (He had to go to work on Monday.) That’s how long these lunatic warriors had suffered up and down the mountain. Chris finished in 4th place. And four hours later, after 42 laps, Benjamin Lane decided he was just fine getting some rest and taking 3rd.
But, that left two men still standing on their skis, Jerimy Arnold and Ben Eck. How much longer would they go? How much longer could they go? Nighttime temps were in single digits and both men were now into 2 days without sleep.
The Last Skier Standing
The insanity wore on lap after lap. There were naps in minivans, sock changes, and coffee & Gatorade runs, but the mountain called and these two continued to answer. The pair went on like this for another 18 hours together! That’s more than 62 of the original 82 entrants.
When it was all said and done, Jerimy Arnold settled for 60 total laps, and Ben Eck went out for one more, ending with 61 and the title of 2021 Last Skier Standing.
To put it in perspective, both men climbed the vertical equivalent of Mt. Everest twice in under 3 days. Words fail to describe it, because words fail to explain it. The physical and mental fortitude of these men fighting until there was a finish is astounding. Congratulations Ben Eck, you are the Last Skier Standing!
For more info on this one of a kind event check out, title sponsor and host of The Last Skier Standing, Ski The Whites on Instagram and Facebook. Special thanks to race founder and director, Andrew Drummond of Ski The Whites, for sitting down for an interview to share all these great race details and stories. Until next time, get some sleep, next year’s contest will be here before you know it!