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home : premium content : news May 29, 2016

2/6/2013 12:46:00 PM
LWSC's Hog Loppet ski event celebrates 25th anniversary

Ian Dunn

The Hog Loppet ski event, now celebrating its 25th anniversary, is more popular than ever, annually attracting some 600 skiers. The Hog Loppet is a 30-kilometer ski trek from Mission Ridge to Blewett Pass.

It is not a race, but merely for the enjoyment of skiing, not to mention the incredible views on the race course, which starts at 6,734 feet atop Mission Ridge and finishes at 4,101 feet atop Blewett Pass.

The popularity of the Hog Loppet has grown by leaps and bounds since the Leavenworth Winter Sport Club took over management of trek about seven years ago.

"Since we have been doing it, we started providing shuttle buses and really good support at aid stations. We shuttle out a lot of snowmobiles with food, like soup and hot dogs," said Rebecca Darley, LWSC marketing and events manager. "With that, the event has become so popular, we had to actually cap off the maximum amount of skiers to about 600, because that is all we could really handle for the day."

Typically, LWSC receives about 500 to 550 before online registration closes. The rest of the skiers typically sign up at Mission Ridge the day of the event. Darley said they have not had to turn anyone away, but it is still highly recommended to sign up ahead of time.

"About two years ago, we knew we could handle 600 skiers just fine, but over that we didn't feel comfortable," she said. "It is pretty exciting to an event so popular you have to restrict how many people can come."

It is easily the best attended snow event for the club. Some of their non-snow Festhalle events draw more, but Hog Loppet in the biggest on the snow. People come from all over the state. Some fly in just to participate, from the east coast and Canada.

It's become a highly popular event for people who enjoy cross country skiing.

"I think the club has done a really good job of supporting the event from start to finish. We have volunteers loading people on shuttle buses," she said. "We have volunteers handing out packets and tee-shirts. We tell people to bring their own food and water because there's only so much we can bring on snowmobiles."

Volunteers are located every 10 kilometers with food like bagels, energy bars, soup, hot dogs and cookies. If skiers need to warm up, they can do that or if someone is having an issue with a ski binding or a pole.

If a skier gets too cold or injured, there is support from EMTs on the course. Darley said they have not had to bring anyone off the course the past couple years. And even then, it was only because it was getting dark, not due to an injury.

"I think it is so popular because we do such a great job of supporting it. Everyone feels comfortable going 30k because we have a team of 60 volunteers looking out for them," she said.

The vistas along the course are amazing. On an ideal day, you can see Glacier Peak, Mount Ranier or Mount Adams. But some years, the course is completely foggy so you can't see much. It totally depends on the weather, Darley said. Sometimes it is very cold, other times spring like.

"It's a really unique experience. Some people come year after year. It's like an annual trip," she said. "Sometimes, you see matching costumes. One year, about 30 friends wore capes. Another year, a group wore warrior hats. It's not a race, just a fun outing with friends. Only a handful of people try to go as fast as they can."

The Hog Loppet course is also popular with snowmobilers. The course is not closed to snowmobiles during the race, however event staff are stationed to inform the snowmobilers about the large number of skiers on the trail. Hop Loppet organizers place posters on the Blewett Pass summit bulletin board in hopes of decreasing the snowmobiling on that day.

Hog Loppet is planned for Saturday, Feb. 23. Online registrations ends on Feb. 21. Sign up at

Backcountry Ski Education Series

LWSC and the Leavenworth Mountain Association are combining to offer a Backcountry Education Series at the Leavenworth Ski Hill. The first clinic was held on Jan. 29, hosted by Dallas Glass of Friends of Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center.

It is a four week series put on by different area pros. In the coming weeks, Darley said they have people from Cascade Powder Cats and Northwest Mountain School to conduct an avalanche education clinic.

"Basically, we are trying to educate as many people as we can. If it is free, hopefully more people will come. It's just an introduction," she said. "You will not be certified. These are just a couple hours. It's helping bring awareness to all the people that go into the backcountry."

The next Avalanche Awareness clinic is from 7 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 12, hosted by Scott Schell, program director for Friends of Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center. A tour planning clinic is planned from 6 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 21, featuring local guides, Ryan Murray of Cascade Powder Cats and John and Olivia Race of Northwest Mountain School. They will conduct an interactive clinic on tour planning

Darley said the program fulfills another goal of the Ski Hill Memorial Project.

"The Ski Hill Memorial project has some big tasks they want to complete. The big one is the patio project and improvements to Ski Hill. Obviously, the project came about because we have lost four friends in an avalanche," she said. "Part of the project tasks was to start creating these avalanche awareness clinics."

Even though the project was started less than a year ago, Darley said they have done well putting for these tasks. Since October, the group has raised $140,000 for the patio project to commemorate the local skiers who have died in avalanches, Jim Jack, Chris Rudolph, Johnny Brennan and Dan Zimmerman.

Zimmerman died in an avalanche while skiing on Mount Cashmere on March 5, 2011. Jack, Rudolph and Brennan died in the tragic Tunnel Creek Steven Pass avalanche on Feb. 19, 2012.

Ian Dunn can be reached at 548-5286 or

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