Well I’m writing this post two days after the race (not a lot of free time and poor internet connections), but I will recap how the day went for us in full detail! The morning started off for us around 6 am since we wanted to get prepared and be fully ready to go at 9 am when the race officially started.
We had scoped out our places the day before – we drove through Brides les Baines, Les Allues and scoped out all of the landmark type places around town that we thought would be potential places for us to hit. Also, when we skied Meribel, we tried to get familiar with all of the lifts and landmark type places on the mountains also.
We had all agreed that our best place to start was down in Brides les Baines (fyi – there is no skiing in Brides les Baines, it is just a town at lower elevation that has a gondola lift that takes you up the mountains to the base of Meribel where the skiing actually starts – Les Allues is a little higher up the mountain but still has no skiing, only has a gondola stop taking you up to Meribel also). Our theory was that we would be faster at running through town in our tennis shoes, having our skies and boots stashed at the base of the gondola in Brides (in our car so they wouldn’t get stolen/cold/wet) and then keeping our tennis shoes on for Les Allues also and just stashing our skis and boots by the gondola again, and then changing into our ski boots on the final gondola ride up from Les Allues and tossing our tennis shoes off to the side at the top, skiing over to the correct lift, and then finishing the race at the top. We chose this path because if we would have skied first, we would have had to ski down, and then ski or run in the snow back up to the gondola which would have been a lot tougher for me at least because I’m pretty bad at skating on my skis (and also we figured if the final clue was at the top of the mountain, it would save one small leg of actually skiing back down the slope to finish at the bottom two gondola rides).
So, we started in the center of town in Brides. Some people started in line at the Brides lift gambling that the location that Vail would require us to hit would simply be riding the lift. From the emails we had received from Vail, we assumed we would be having to find something actually in town, and since the gondola was on the outside of town, we decided to begin right in the center of town.
The email with all of our clues and locations for each town came out right at 9 am. Everyone was on their phones ready to run, however I don’t think anyone expected the clues to be as difficult as they were initially. Vail made the clues tough in order to try to slow us down and spread us out, amazing race style, and it worked.
For Brides les Baines, the clue we decided to go with was “This street is named after an assassinated French politician, and the number is the number of consecutive world titles Lindsey Vonn has won” – it tooks us longer than we thought to figure out the name of the street that was named after an assassinated French politician, since obviously there was more than one, and there are a lot of town names in Brides also. Fortunately for us, we had befriended Bill and Charlie Fiveash – a father and son team from Canyons, Utah (Charlie is only 13!). We had hung out with them several times from running into them throughout the trip so it helped on the last day to be buddies with them. Somehow Bill figured out the name of the French politician matching a street name in Brides was Joseph Feranet, so he pointed at the map where we needed to go, said “oh come with us, we want you guys to win too” and started running.
Hydle and Rhinehart at first weren’t totally sure if it was the hunger games and if they were trying to throw us off, but I trusted them because I knew they wouldn’t be running in a direction just to throw us off. I figured I could google Feranets name as we were running to confirm, which is what I started to do. I yelled at Hydle and Rhinehart to follow and that I was confirming it was true, and they kinda followed me, but at a slower pace because they were still working on the clues. (We had decided before the race started that we would try to be calculated and smart before frantically taking any actions, which is kinda what I was doing, but I also felt confident Bill knew the French politicians name correctly, especially because Brides is a small town with not a lot of street names).
While running, I pulled up Google Maps, and found the exact address of 6 (world titles for Lindsey Vonn) and Joseph Feranet street. I had the map feature route me straight to that address, and while running (assuming Hydle and Rhinehart were following me still) I saw Bill and Charlie one street above us (they missed the left turn). Since they had helped us initially on finding the Feranet street, I yelled to them that they had missed their turn and that they needed to follow me because I had it on maps.
Bill, Charlie and me found the address shortly after, and there was a red gondola there, so we figured that had to be the location. We stalled for a second trying to figure out where the Epic Race sticker actually was – and Charlie looked around and found it on the side. We were the second group of people to get our video taken in front of that gondola that morning.
I had assumed Hydle and Rhinehart had been following me the whole time in my frantic distraction of finding the sticker with Bill and Charlie, and when I looked back, I realized they weren’t anywhere to be seen. I had a minor panic when I thought I may have lost them (not a good thing to do during a foot race like this) but since our team had a lot of notoriety by the end of this race, I yelled at the next guy who was running toward the gondola “Hey did you see Hydle and Rhinehart back there?” and the guy said “Yea they’re back there still” – so I ran back to where the guys were standing (a few hundred yards back still) and said “what are you guys doing? I already found the sticker, it’s over there at the red gondola, hurry!”
They were like “you didn’t tell us you knew where it was, you should have told us to follow you” and I said “I thought you were following me, I didn’t realize I didn’t make it clear that I knew where I was going!” and then I thought about running back to the gondola with them again, but then they yelled at me to just keep running back to the gondola at the base of Brides, which they were right about. They were way faster runners than I was, so Hydle tossed me the car key (where we had stashed our skis and boots at the base of the Brides gondola) and said to hurry over there and grab the skis for all of us.
They were so much faster than me, that they ran to the red gondola, got their videos taken, and then ran back and still caught back up with me before we even got halfway back to the Brides lift. Rhinehart was super fast and grabbed the key from me, ran ahead and took out my skis and boots for me, and hoofed them up the stairs to the gondola for me. He yelled at me to just keep running all the way up to the gondola, and yelled at Hydle to grab the poles and his own skis.
I was SO tired by this point, it must have been a ¾ mile total run at full sprint in ski gear, sweating our butts off, but as we were climbing the stairs up to the gondola, the Vail team was there cheering us on, and a couple video and camera guys were shooting us. Rhinehart had already loaded up my skis for me (what a champ) into the gondola, so I dove into it with him right as it was about to leave the loading area. Hydle was behind us so he had to jump into the next one behind us. I also had a small moment of panic there when I asked Rhinehart if he had grabbed my ski boots, and fortunately he had!
We immediately dove into trying to solve our next round of clues for Les Allues. The clues were legitimately tough. But there was a riddle that said
“What am I?
A mountain is tall, but I have more stories.
I don’t have ski runs, but I do have aisles.
You have an Epic Pass, but I have many Epics.”
I assumed this was the church, which we had scoped out earlier and knew how to get to. I mean, churches have stories, aisles and epics. Hydle got off his gondola and I said I thought it was the church and he agreed, so we all went for it and ran straight to the church. Probably another ¾ mile round trip run. Turns out, we found out later that clue was actually for the public library which was RIGHT across the street from the gondola. Duh, makes sense that libraries also have stories, aisles and epics, but when you’re in a rush, things don’t seem as obvious as they do in hindsight. Bummer we missed this because we did know where the library was, and if we could have found the sticker there instead of the church, it probably would have saved us 5 minutes total, which I think would have definitely put us really close into all being in the full running for the epic pass. Orelle!
Bill, Charlie, Hydle, Rhinehart, and Vail videographer friend, Eric ran full sprint to the Church where Hydle was the first to find the sticker. We all snapped our photos, and ran back as fast as we could to the gondola. Everyone was faster than me again, but they were so cool about waiting for me to catch up, grab my skis, and Hydle, Rhinehart and Eric (videographer) jumped into the gondola for our final ride up to Meribel where skiing actually begins.
We put our ski boots on in the gondola, and everyone agreed that they knew the last clue would be to get up to the top of the Toughnette lift (it turns out you could take either gondola from the Meribel base and find an epic sticker at the top). I had no idea how to solve the puzzles for Meribel, but the guys seemed confident they knew where they were going, so I went with it. (I’m not great at maps, and navigating ski areas, so the whole week I hadn’t really been on top of navigating, but the guys had assured me they would have me back when it got to the skiing part at Meribel since they were pretty comfortable with navigating the lifts and the resort).
At the top of the gondola ride, which leads you to the base area where all the lifts and gondolas are to actually ski from, we saw Kaylin Richardson. We had skied with her at Courcheval for some filming, so we knew her pretty well. She had a go pro, and said she was gonna go with us for our final leg of the race. We had to pop on our skis, and then skate on them over some pretty flat base area to get to the actual gondola. Dude. She’s an Olympic skier, and strong as shit, so of course she killed it. I was dying by this point because of all the sprinting in our ski gear, and my legs were so tired, but I had to try to skate as fast as I could to get to the gondola. The guys were way ahead of me because they are so much stronger and better at skating, and so was Kaylin.
When I finally got to the gondola entrance, you had to unlick out of your skis, grab them, and then head up these ramps to get up to the gondola station area. There were quite a few people slowly walking up, and Hydle, Rhinehart and Kaylin were way ahead of me, like already at the top of the station waiting for me. I pushed my way as hard as I could to get up the ramp, and then Hydle yelled at me to get in the left lane line area, so I moved over to the left lane which was moving faster. Even without people in line, I was so tired I’m not sure I could have gotten up to that gondola much faster than I did anyway.
I finally made it, and by then the guys had already loaded their skis up and there wasn’t anymore room to put them on the outside of the gondola, and they were yelling at me to just dive into the gondola holding my skis (lots of the other gondolas on the mountain allow you to bring your skis inside the cabin with you, so I didn’t think much of it).
Well the gondola liftie guys were NOT happy about me trying to do this, and started reprimanding me in French and making me get back out (all of this is happening while the gondola is about to take off because they never actually stop). So I jumped back out with my skis while the rest of the group (including Bill and Charlie again) were all sitting in the gondola together. I tried to get on the next gondola, but by then the spots to put your skis was full in that one too, so I found space in the third gondola after the guys, and jumped in.
I had a few minutes to catch my breath on the ride up, and wasn’t sure if anyone would be waiting for me at the top, but fortunately everyone was waiting shouting at me to grab my skis and hurry, because we had to get on one more lift.
I made this transition ok, and we all somehow got onto the 6 pack lift with another Epic Racer who I’m not actually sure what his name was.
At the top of that lift was our home stretch. The clue said “Come ask me a question atop _ _ U _ _ _ _ _” – the guys knew that was the Tougnette lift because it was the only lift with a U as the third letter, and I told them I knew it would be an info station because I had seen those throughout the mountain near ski patrol offices. At the top, we saw the info station, and had to actually skate or run uphill to get to it. Hydle skated all the way up quickly, and Rhinehart told me to unclick out of my bindings and run up with him. We got to the top with Bill, Charlie, Hydle, Rhinehart, me, and Kaylin (and the other guy I didn’t know, who was actually only on his first clue of the day). We all snapped our photos really quickly, and all had our submission pages pre-loaded with our video and other photo, so all we needed was to pop in our last photo.
I popped in my last photo super quick, and pushed submit for my final submission and my stupid webpage refreshed and started back at blank (I knew it was possible that this would happen because we had tested it before, but it sucked that this happened to me right when I was submitting). So I had to preload my content again – which I did do really quickly – and then submit again. I know I had my initial page submitted just as fast and Rhinehart and Hydle, but because I had to pre-load again, it slowed me down, and then my submission actually got hung up for maybe 30 seconds for my final submission to clear through. By that point, three more people – Bill, Charlie, and a guy we didn’t know named Steve – had jumped in line ahead of me on the leaderboard. This really was only the equivalent of two submissions though because Bill and Charlie got to submit as one person because Charlie was a minor. It was ok thought because I would have wanted Bill and Charlie to have a shot at winning before me, they were so cool and were our alliance on the final day, and it would be super cool especially for Charlie to get an epic pass for life being only 13!
So that’s how we completed our final day. We knew immediately that we were not in the unofficial top 10, because our leaderboard showed us coming in around 28, 29, and 33 I think. We still high fived and cheered a little bit at the top just to have it done, and Kaylin got a few final shots of us on the go pro up there.
Now, for the leaderboard. Vail was very clear in their instructions that for the final day, you HAD to have your photos and videos include the Epic Race stickers. The leaderboard changed throughout the day because if you submitted the incorrect content (ie: no sticker in your photo) you could email Vail and have them take you off the board and resubmit the correct content. The leaderboard changed throughout the day because I think people realized they had posted the wrong content, so we kept moving up. By the end of the day, we had moved up to 20 (Rhinehart), 21 (Hydle) and 25 (me). Now, the sticker rule alone should still disqualify 4 people as it stands just in the top 10. Then, from going through everyone from 1-19, for final day content alone, the guys have determined they think it is possible/likely they may move up to 10 and 11th place. Now, one more variable. The first 4 guys on the leaderboard all hiked up to the top of the mountain and found the snowman with the sticker up there before operating hours of the resort. Vail was pretty clear about this not being allowed either pretty early into the race since they wanted all content to be recorded and submitted during resort operating hours. It is also unclear if Vail would have approved the guys hiking up to begin the race at the top of the mountain since we also heard that another guy had emailed Vail prior to the final day asking for permission to hike to the top to start the final race day and they told him no. This is hearsay, and there are a lot of variables left on Vail needing to go through everyone on the leaderboard’s content, but bottom line is it is still possible that Rhinehart, and potentially Hydle, and even super small chance of potentially I could end up in the top 10 depending on how stringently Vail follows their contest guidelines. They told us they will need at least 3 business days to validate all of the content for everyone on the leaderboard, and that the final winners will not be officially announced until after that, so we will see.
All that said, I would also like to state that I am the 2nd girl on the leaderboard right now. The only other girl in front of me actually did not post a video for her final day. I’m not sure what happened there, but that should likely disqualify her, and it also may imply that she did not in fact fully complete the final race day requirements prior to me. So, it’s possible that I am the first girl finisher of the Epic Race. As hard as it was for me, I guess I should be proud of myself for being capable enough to be potentially the first girl finisher of the race, as well as being on such a champion team that allowed me to hang with them on the final day. I was really nervous that I would cause the guys to lose because of being slow, and I even told them prior that I wanted them to leave me so they could go ahead and finish. But they both rocked and said no way that they were leaving me, and that they didn’t’ even want to win unless all three of us could win. So, thank you Hydle and Rhinehart for sticking with me!
It is a bummer that the final day actually came down to physical capabilities for RUNNING. This was supposed to be a ski race, and unfortunately it came down to being a fast runner more or less (hence no girls being in the top 10). If I was a better runner, it’s possible that all three of us would be easily in the top ten. And, if we knew to hit up the library in Les Allues, I also think we would definitely be in the top ten.
BUT, all of that said, we had so much fun. I wouldn’t change anything about the entire trip, including how we conquered the last day. The friends we have met were so much fun, and hopefully will be long lasting connections for all of us. There are some things that could have been better about the way it ended and was handled, but all in all, I don’t think too many people on the trip have anything but fun memories to bring home.
Thank you to Hydle and Rhinehart for being literally the best teammates anyone could ask for. Our team became pretty famous among the Epic Race by the end of the trip, and everyone knew who Hydle was!
The rest of the day we spent actually trying to figure out the other clues (Hydle was set on wanting to know if he could have figured them all out, and obviously he did because he is so damn smart!). And then we went back to Brides, changed our clothes, and drove the car back up.
We finished off the day by riding the gondola up to the party at La Folie Deuce. Dang. That was a party! It was a pretty sweet venue for après ski if you’re ready to club. They had loud club music with a live band actually playing along with the music which was super sweet. Everyone from the Epic Race was there, and we all got to hang out and mingle. One couple from the race got engaged at the party, and then the Vail team handed out some prizes at the end.
We had to ride the gondola back down at the end of the party around 4:30, and we got to do our final gondola ride of the Epic Race with Hydle, Rhinehart, Adam and me. Adam was one of our most favorite friends on the trip and I couldn’t’ think of a better crew to have our final gondola ride down for the Epic Race. Love you Adam!
We finished off the night at Jack’s in Mirebel with some dinner, and some of our favorite friends from the trip – Jay, his son Zac, Carol, Sarah, Adam, Rhinehart, Wendy, Nick and and Scott (top ten finishers).
What a crazy final day, we did it! And, at least we all have guaranteed epic passes for next year, thanks Vail! And thank you to all of our family and friends at home that followed along and supported us. Based on this final day we realized more people were following along than we realized, so thank you to all, we love you!