If you thought winter races were supposed to be appetizers to warm everyone up for all the races that are to follow later in the year, then be sure to thank Bill Wolfe and his rock star team for Chuck Norris-ing the crap out of that idea.
This year, the Abominable Snow Race was held on top of a very big rock in Wisconsin known as Devil's Head ski resort. No Zumba class or Runga retreat would have ever prepared the couch dwellers for the snowy vertical madness that was unleashed upon the countless victims this early February. I could see death in the eyes of the flat landscape runners of the midwest that morning as we all peered straight up the never-ending vertical slope hoping to see the top, but it was nowhere to be found.
The Abominable Snow Race has two distances to choose, a kids course, and the ability to run unlimited laps. The only race that offers prize money is the elite Adventure race, and it is definitely worth mentioning that the race hands out hard cash and liquor to the top three men, top three women, top three men masters, and top three women masters!
The way the race works for elite racers is that all obstacles are mandatory but not with infinite attempts. Elite racers have three wristbands to mark each failed attempt. Once a racer has failed three times, they are out of luck. A racer can spend all of them on one obstacle, or spread them out over the length of the course.
A wickedly awesome blanket of fluffy powder graced the hills just days before the race. The constant running through the deep cushy snow was comical at points but was still exciting even though it provided little stability for any decent footing. It was impossible to get a rhythm going in order to stay balanced and propel myself up and down the very technical landscape. The sky was a tad overcast. Some said there was fog early in the morning, but I knew that it was actually the emission of badassness coming directly from Coach Pain as his vocal cords reverberated off the top of the mountain.
Big, wicked snowy hills are the most major obstacle on this course. Besides being visually stunning, they provide uneven slippery footing guaranteed to get your heart rate into the red zone and provide great padding for when you fall over and over again. And while the grip game was tame, and the heavy lifting was toned down from the previous year, The Abominable Snow Race has the biggest ace up its sleeve that 99% of all OCR races are completely unable to accomplish. The Abominable Snow Race has the Avalanche as a guaranteed game winner simply based on how tremendously fun it is.
People often forget that the simplest answer to a problem is most often the best solution.
To complete the Avalanche, you must run an awkward sized inflatable donut up a mountain and then slide down a path on said donut. It is downright terrifying to let go of control and just let gravity have its way with you. Did I tell you that the tube spins as you travel down the ski slope? Yes you are going to hit a frozen ice wall at some point, but don’t bother trying to redirect the path, because the snow your shoe is kicking up off the ground will just fly into your eyeballs.
Finally, this obstacle is probably the rarest obstacle in OCR due to the weather and terrain requirements that just don’t exist across the country. I have no doubt that every single obstacle race would love to include this doozy into their arsenal, which is why many people say that it is the best obstacle in town, but I am willing to argue that it is probably the greatest obstacle in OCR as we know it.
If you haven’t been reading, this race is at a ski resort. Racers can either eat their post-race bananas and energy bars, or they can walk five yards and eat a New York strip steak with French wine. This place is as highfalutin' as you want it to be.
Overall Rating: 5 Frozen Yetis out of 5
This race cannot be ignored. My feeling is that the Abominable Snow Race is the true race that everyone needs to be training for all year long and it keeps getting better every year. Devil's Head ski resort offers loads of majestic vertical feet to climb with unpredictable weather it might not be clear as to what kind of gear you will need, but rest assured that the conditions have been challenging in the most amazing way possible. The best part is that if you are not feeling like a several-hour romp around a big rock in Wisconsin, then there are multiple distances to match your agony threshold.
Massive bravo to Bill Wolfe and his crew for getting everything prepared for everyone during the polar vortex and building rigs in windchill temperature of -50°f while I was at my cozy hotel.
This serves as a warning not miss the 2020 Abominable Snow Race. Registration is already open, so the prices are at their lowest and will only increase as the days go by.
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I would have to disagree with your 5 out of 5 rating for the race. As a participant all 4 years, I’m not sure I’ll be back for next year. The course this year came in more than a mile less then advertised, obstacles were not set up and were left laying on the ground. No water stations on the course would have to be my biggest complaint though. If you are not going to provide hydration, let your racers know beforehand so they can pack what they need. As the race changed locations after people signed up, a hotel stay and 3 hour drive were necessary to get to the race. Overall not impressed 3 out of 5 yetis at best, and that is not even taking into account the lack of bibs which made the photos difficult to navigate as this appeared to be a vendor issue.
Hey Dan. The weather proved a formidable foe during setup week, but notwithstanding, we have many areas where we can improve. I appreciate you sharing; it helps us get better. Feel free to
Reach out direct, anytime.
Where do I begin? Thank you Chris and MRG for this incredible review! We spend the entire year planning every detail for the race day experience and it never fails that Mother Nature throws us a massive curve ball. 2018 was “mudagedan” with 46degrees in what became instant swamp and mud plus snow. 2019 was definitely no joke. With three days straight of wind chills between -40 and -55 (just days before the race), 12” of fresh powder the first day for the build crew to begin, machines and vehicles that would not start (due to the cold) to move gear and crew, the resort shutting down all operations for three straight days for the first time in their history, AND three of our seasoned build crew members having last minute emergency cancellations….I still wonder how in the heck we pulled it off. Yes, we had to re-route the course and slightly shorten it, simply because it was far to dangerous to navigate. Yes, there were three obstacles we didn’t build, given the conditions that shut down entire municipalities, I’m surprised we got any of them built at all. We had a few small set backs no doubt, however, we wanted nothing but the absolute best experience we could possibly provide and gave it everything we had. Your review speaks volume to our crew and we are truly humbled. All I can say is, we have big shoes to fill for 2020, however, with the best crew in OCR (yes, a little biased, haha) we will put together another ABOMINABLE experience yet again! Thanks again MRG and thank you YETI NATION!
Abominable Snow Race
4 of 4 years competive races for me, and it was amazing! Yes agreed water station would have been nice but it added to the difficulty. Some ate snow which there was plenty, I just kept going. Thanks Bill Wolfe and abominable crew for getting as many obstacles as they did in minus 30 degree weather, no joke!