By Jessi Loerch
In 1930, adventurous cross-country skiers set out for the first Patrol Race, a challenging 18-mile course between Snoqualmie Pass and Meany Lodge.
The race was run a total of 11 times, with the final race in 1941.
Now, 73 years later, the race is back on Feb. 8. And it’s clearly drawn a lot of interest. All of the race slots are full, with 12 teams of three people. Even the wait list is full.
For many years, Nigel Steere, whose grandparents were early Meany Lodge skiers and who skied the race route, has wanted to resurrect the race. Lowell Skoog, who is a Mountaineers historian and veteran backcountry skier, has been writing online about the race since 2004. His writing gathered further interest in restarting the race.
Racers are all required to carry basic back-country equipment. They can also compete for a historical prize by carrying vintage mountaineering items. The original list included 3 new candles, raisins, a can of canned beef, snow glasses and a light ax, among other gear.
If you’re interested in getting involved, the race can be watched from the start or the finish. The finish is at the Meany Lodge, in itself a fascinating bit of history.
“Both Meany and the Patrol Race are amazing pieces of Northwest ski history and that is why we are re-igniting the Patrol Race,” said Nigel Steere*, the race organizer and Mountaineers volunteer. “The back-country skiing community is particularly strong here in the Northwest — and while interest in the race was waning in the early 1940s, it is apparent that is not the case today.”
Anyone can stay at Meany Lodge — although Mountaineers members do get a discount. It’s the oldest continually operating ski resort in Washington.
“Meany is a fantastically rustic place that manages to support a plethora of ski and snowboard lesson programs, snowshoe events, cross country skiing and more – all on an entirely volunteer crew,” Steere said.
So, if you’re interested in seeing a bit of history revived, you can go hang out at Meany and watch the racers finish. The race has a staggered start between 6 and 8 a.m. on Feb. 8. The fastest racers are expected to finish in 6 or 7 hours.
For a bit of history, the best time ever was set by a team in 1936: 4 hours, 37 minutes. One of the members of that team was Wolf Bauer. Skoog, who led a group along the route in 2006, shared Bauer’s life philosophy.
“The trick is to die young,” he said, “as late as possible.”
- Read the specifics on the race
- Read about the history, from the Mountaineers annual from 1956.
- Lowell Skoog skied the route earlier this month and wrote about it.
- Read Skoog’s story about the history of the race and his trips checking out the route.
- Meany Lodge hosts a 450-foot vertical drop ski area, accessed by the longest certified rope tow west of the Rockies. There is downhilll skiing and snowboarding, as well as cross country skiing trails. You can stay the night there. The lodging fee includes food and access to the ski areas.
* Correction, Jan. 29, 2014: This article originally had an incorrect attribution for this quote.