Vail Resorts Epic Race – Explanation of Awesomeness


[YouTubeUlar] <— 442

***NOTE*** – Next week this post will be post dated back to December 24th, 2013

Merry EPIC Christmas-Holiday-New Year and Happy End of Work Day on December 24th, 2013.

As many of you know I have been charging around the world with a couple awesome people skiing and “in a way” competing in something called Vail Resorts Epic Race. The Epic Race was conceived by Vail Resorts as a contest for the first 10 people who successfully skied every Vail Resort in the 2013/14 season which included 26 ski resorts spread across 4 different continents. 12 were located in the US and the remaining 14 were in Austria, Switzerland and France — The reward for the first 10 people who accomplished this goal would be a Vail Resorts Lifetime Epic Pass. Of course, when I first heard about this randomly awesome competition in early October I knew it would be a fun endeavor to attempt to win what would be known as “THE” ski pass of all ski passes! What I didn’t know is that when it came down to the final day of the FINAL resort to open in Brides-Les-Bains France… was that there would be 131 people from across the world contending for this most EPIC of Epic Vail Passes. Vail Resorts didn’t even expect this kind of final day outcome… and even though Vail has stated that we would all know the final results from this most epic of epic races by end of work day today, I’m happy to announce that they have decided to take some “EXTRA” time to review all the content and all the angles from this 29 day race!

To summarize what Ashley Cooley, Devin L Rhinehart and I have all accomplished in the last month is pretty difficult to comprehend. I think it can best be described as a test in school, like your final final of the semester. Only if you didn’t pass this final, there was ZERO chance of you passing… or “winning” in this case – which all made sense to us. So I basically used that approach to find some motivation to get our team into and through the final day. All three of us from “Team Fun” were in the top 10 percentile through school as we grew up… so we simply needed to apply these rules of life to the final day and if we succeeded and tried our best … we should probably be ok on the final leader board. Sounds simple enough, however there were some additional requirements to get you to the top. 1 – time, 2 – paying attention to detail… and 3 – being sure all your previous content for the race was up to snuff. Of course there is always LUCK involved too, but we had plenty of that on our side with Ashley being the lucky one. Devin was our Time freak, and I was pretty much Mr Detail. Put us all together and we find ourselves at number 20, 21 and 25 on the final “unofficial” Vail Resorts Epic Race leader board. However, when you throw a little detail into it you will notice that 9 people in front of us automatically get tossed from improper uploading on the final day — Two of those don’t even have video links. Add another level of detail and 4 more get dropped for not following resort rules – aka “you can’t hike outside of resort hours”. That brings Rhinehart up to number 7, me at 8 and Cooley as the top girl finisher just out of the top 10 at 12.

Of course, these are unofficial results — even by my count. I have no idea what Vail Resorts will ultimately choose to do or how nitpicky they are going to get in judging this most EPIC of epic races! When you start digging into 26 mountains of content it becomes pretty overwhelming pretty fast! How do I know? Because I’ve done it. One of the cool things about this race is that everyones piece of content from accomplishing all 26 ski resorts is public which is why I am happy to see them taking the extra time to get the correct 10 finishers on top of the board. After jumping into the 52 photos and 26 fifteen second minimum videos from each contestant, I know who gets tossed and who sticks around. And almost every other racer knows too… Except for the one element that is publicly unknown in this race, which is who actually emailed Vail Resorts a photo of their completed European ski stamp passport by 11:59:59pm on December 20th, 2013. Assuming everyone in front of us accomplished this 1 simple task … I see myself finishing in 7th place – Rhinehart moves to number 6 and Cooley… well there is a super slim small chance that she could pop into the top 10, but even though I know there are technicalities with some uploaded content between us, I do not expect Vail to jump to that level of detail to pop her into the top 10 — If they do choose to go that route, then I would probably be dropped for having goggles or sunglasses on in one of my photos or videos. Sunglasses were never actually addressed, but goggles were recommended to be off your face as you must be visible in all photos and videos and you must include #epicrace in your titles and your Facebook posts and you must choose 1 video and 2 photo locations from a list of required elements at each area and have all your content upload by midnight of the time zone of the mountain you were visiting and you must have lift scan data from the given mountain on the given day and you can only ski 1 US mountain or 2 European mountains per day and you must accomplish this all during resort operating hours and you needed to shoot horizontal video opposed to vertical iPhone video and you need to talk loud through plastic on GoPros and and you can’t promote other brands or use copyrighted material on and on and on… can you see how run on and on this contest could get let alone judging it all!? Either way, at some point there needs to be a line drawn in the final judging criteria in order to release the official leader board and award the top racers their Vail Resorts lifetime season pass!

If we are on that list — Fantastic! If for some reason we don’t quite make the official top 10, then we will still enjoy the experiences that have been had and the Vail Resorts Epic season pass for next year that will be awarded to anyone who completes all 26 Vail mountains in the 2013/2014 season. In keeping with the original spirit of “Team Fun”, I will end this post with the 1 simple rule we had while blowing over 2700 miles in the car and almost 14,000 miles in the air to accomplish this 1 impressive task of skiing 26 ski resorts in 29 days in 4 different countries — “Skiing is fun… and that’s about all!”

It was amazing meeting so many *awesome people* on this incredible adventure! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone!

*Awesome People*

Nick and Scott Annis
Joe Jensen, Weather Man Steve Sacco and John Victor
Michael Lahey + Epic Race Mom Sharon Mcmonagle
Devin Rhinehart, Ashley Cooley + Greg Hydle … “Team Fun”
Bill and little man Charlie Fiveash
London man Steve Curtis
Japan master Zoe Huebner
The Beard of Ando!
Golden locals Michael + Nila Ferrone
Newlyweds Jessica + Dave Schnoll
Sister + Brother team Jannah and Jeff Din!
The Wilson Duo
The Beard of Sean Regan!
The Jackson Hole Greece of Nick Greece
My manager… Kim Jackson!
Windy Wendy Smith
Ultimate video bomber Parker Jackson
The always proper Carolyn Pope!
Crazy Face Troy Martinez
The child in Annie + David Childs
The always Rad Rad Roubeni!
The hair of Tom Slazinski
Epic start with Matt Dority
Webmaster Will Tran
Crazy Man Kai Whittier (never actually met but heard ridiculous stories)
The Curls of Kim Klopp!
Tera + Garrick Keatts
The Silent JK Johnny Kuo
Sock Firestarter Zac Irwin!
The Humor of Jason Walence
Master Ski Sabbatical Jay Irwin
The entire Liu Family!
Will you marry me Matthew Walence
Ryan Garnett, “Pets Heads Falling Off” Colin Dean, and Backflip Trevor Posey!
Green Icelantic Machine Hollis Carter
Our Shit Got Jacked Alexandra Malkin + Aaron Marks :(
Completed the Epic Race Right Jessica Jackson Hill!
The Finished in Fine Fashion Lawrence Bayer
The Dreads of Jonathon Blair Ermer
Yellow Man Giovanni De Francisco!
The Ned Man Kip and Legitimately Last Place Final Day Finisher Kip Lagorin
One Take Timmy Jarred Simpson
The One and Only Man of Epicness Himself … Adam Warot!

Devin Rhinehart Crushing It

Devin Rhinehart Nails URS Engineer of the Day

Way to crush it out there Devin Rhinehart – you Vail Resorts Epic Race Winning Engineer of the Day. This one just might simply be worth an I Love Awesomeness Award.

Blockquote for Google cred:

Devin Rhinehart has been selected by his peers as Wednesday’s Engineer of the Day for the Denver office. Devin is a mechanical engineer and has been working at URS for five and a half years.

Devin was nominated for his willingness to learn and his ability to apply his knowledge to his work. Devin demonstrates a passion for the engineering profession. He has shown great leadership in the mechanical group and goes above and beyond what is expected of him.

Devin enjoys skiing, biking, fishing and hockey. He won a lifetime pass to Vail Resorts in the Epic Race this year. Devin graduated from the Colorado School of Mines with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. He is currently pursuing a MBA at the University of Denver.

Team Fun Post Race Recap

Winning Leaderboard Team Fun
Well, if you’re reading this, you most likely know that thanks to some serious shifting of the leaderboard, we came home with two official winners of the Epic Race – Hydle and Rhinehart – CONGRAT-U-FREAKING-LATIONS guys!!!

After the race finished up, Hydle and I stayed for about an extra week in Switzerland to decompress and enjoy some more scenery. We would have gotten more skiing in, however so far (January 9, 2014) we have officially managed to miss every.single.storm.so.far. So, after skiing groomers for 10 days straight in Europe, we were ready for a break from the groomer days, and ended up mainly relaxing, catching up on fast internet, and checking out Switzerland a bit. I think we also didn’t realize how grueling and exhausting our pace had been until we stopped and we kinda hit a wall after it all ended.

Rhinehart had to head straight back to get back to work, but we had pretty regular phone calls with him still from Europe just decompressing from the trip, chatting about the way it all ended, and discussing the potential for the leaderboard to still change (we were sitting at 20, 21 and 25 until Vail posted the official winners)…and of course missing each other because we got pretty used to traveling as the badass threesome that we were.

Now let me fill you in on one thing about Hydle if you don’t know him that well. He gets SUPER into things, like hyperfocused to a fault, once his mind is set on something. This actually was a trait that I know can be directly attributed in a large part on the overall success of the team throughout the entire trip. The amount of research that Hydle and Rhinehart did prior to even DECIDING if we were going to do the trip probably outweighs the overall research of any team for the entire trip. Hydle has spreadsheets galore on every minor detail he could gather on each ski resort, the type of travel we would do, our scheduling, the rough costs, hotels to stay at, reaching out to European friends for local tips, local hookups on rides and accommodations, etc. It was honestly hard to keep up with because his research was so thorough and involved before we even began the race that I struggled to feel like I could even help or contribute because by the time I was able to look something up and bring it up to the group, Hydle would say “Oh I know, we already have that figured out.” That said, Rhinehart was a huge asset in research, resources, and organization too. The duo of Hydle and Rhinehart combined was pretty unstoppable in terms of overall preparation I would say throughout the entire Epic Race. I helped where I could, but these guys had it dialed to a T.

All that said, the one prop I will give to myself is that I truly believe I’m a really lucky person. I mean, I know I’m a lucky person! So, throughout the trip, the guys kept telling me they were glad I was on the trip because they needed a good luck charm, and guess what, they got one, nailed it!

So now that you know that Hydle obsessively researches everything thoroughly, you should also know that after the Epic Race ended (at 10:17 am precisely on December 20) we didn’t even ski all the way down our one and only run of the day before we ended up at a bar, with Hydle and Rhinehart borrowing a pen and paper from the bartender, and proceeding to solve ALL of the puzzles that Vail had put out on the final day. This didn’t make any sense to me, I mean, the race was over, who cares what the answers to all the puzzles were. But Hydle in particular felt he needed to know if he could have solved all the puzzles, and wouldn’t quit until he did! I think the puzzle solving took about 2 hours in total, but he did it!

So along the same lines as him solving all of the puzzles, he was the same way with wanting to know who on the leaderboard would or would not remain there after being vetted by Vail and all of the rules in place on how to properly finish the race.

Since all of the information we had to post in order to complete the race was public, it was actually pretty simple – albeit time consuming – to sort through every single person on the leaderboard in front of us and make a judgment call on whether we felt they would remain on the leaderboard or not.

The most common reason for the leaderboard changing was a lot of racers actually didn’t catch the part in the rules on the final day that said you actually had to take a photo with the epic race sticker in it on the final day. Many people made it to the final locations, but missed the sticker requirement. This alone dropped off roughly 10 people who had been in front of us on just the first day.

The sticker requirement, combined with knowing that 4 of the first guys on the board had hiked up the mountain (which we felt wasn’t going to be allowed by Vail) meant Hydle especially felt that there was still a decent chance that they may actually bump all the way up into the top 10.

We all knew it was going to be a close call on how it all shook out when Vail actually sorted through everyone, but the more Hydle dug in, the more confident he was feeling about potentially moving into the leaderboard. Remember, the beauty of this race was that all of the entries were publicly posted, so therefore it was possible to determine on our own who had fulfilled all of the requirements.

So, from Switzerland, we spent an ENTIRE day sitting inside one of his friend’s apartments who generously let us stay in it for several days (thank you Rob, Laetitia, and Francis!!). Hydle busted out his spreadsheets and started going through every single racer above us’s content, one by one, extremely thoroughly. By thorough, I mean, if they posted a 4 minute YouTube video, he watched the entire video, even if in the first 10 seconds it was obvious they were at the correct location.

He chatted with fellow racers, he emailed Vail several times, he researched edge cases, and he confirmed via multiple sources that it was in fact against Meribel’s policy to hike to the top of the mountain while the mountain was closed (this fact was crucial because it gave Vail the discretion to remove the top 4 guys who hiked the mountain and got an advantage on the leaderboard on the final day.)

I don’t even think he got up out of his chair in front of the computer for 8 hours straight. He was lucky I was there to keep him fed and hydrated. But, we did run out of food by the end of this day, and I started to get super hangry and cabin fevery, and almost left to just get pizza without him after starving for hours, but he eventually finished it up and we did get to get out of the apartment for some sweet Mongolian bbq on Christmas eve!

After his long ass day of Hydle research (and more hours on either end of this long day), Hydle had come to the determination (going into this late night Christmas Eve dinner at Mongolian BBQ) that he and Rhinehart would make it into the top 10. We cheersed a little bit, but I was cautious and didn’t want him to over celebrate in case Vail was more lenient on some of their rules than they had promised. But Hydle was pretty confident, yet anxious for the official results as well.

We finished up our time in Europe, and got on our flights back to the US. We had an 11 hour flight back on Friday, December 27 (one week after the final day of the race). There was no internet access on this flight, and we didn’t know when Vail would officially release the final results. But, the second we turned on our phones back in the US, the first thing we got was the Vail official results email, which we read together while the plane was still taxiing.

It was so exciting to see the official results with Rhinehart in 9th, and Hydle in 10th! We high fived now that it was official, and Hydle started sorting through all of his millions of congrats messages (it was like his birthday but more!)

We got off the plane, and when we finally made it through customs, his two sisters, and two of his nephews were waiting right outside for us wearing full blown beards painted red, and holding up signs that had pics from us on the race, and congrats messages to the team for coming home with some wins! It was so cool to have his family greet us like that, what a welcome home!

We had a 5 hour layover before continuing on to California (I needed to see my family since I had missed both Thanksgiving, and Christmas for this race!) so we went to dinner with his sisters, nephews, and our other favorite team mascot, Darren Droge – to celebrate and catch up for a bit.

Turns out, Adam Warot of all people saw our post that we were briefly in Denver, and rolls up with his one and only shotski, and we took some celebratory fireball shots as well. Killing it Warot!

Once back in California, we had lots of time to now decompress on the win for Hydle and Rhinehart. We facetimed with Rhinehart and his family (thank you Rhineharts and Lauren for all of the support!), and the guys had tons of messages to respond to from everyone coming out of the woodwork to congratulate them!

The guys got several interview requests for various articles about the winners, so they had a couple conf calls with reporters to discuss.

Plenty of people have asked, “how did Hydle and Rhinehart win but not you?” so I will explain.

For starters, I was the weak link anyway – I was the slowest runner by far out of the three of us, and the entire final day was literally a foot race, we skied zero turns. I can keep up fairly well on skis, not so much running! That said, the guys were so amazing and patient and waited for me, helped me, and pushed me throughout the hour and 17 minutes on the final day. Thanks to them waiting for me, we all finished at the same time (Rhinehart unclicked out of his skis and ran up the final hill with me in ski boots for our final shots, Hydle skated up which would have taken me forever!) But, because the final submission was something you had to submit via your phone/cell service, we all had our submissions pre-loaded as we were on our final gondola ride up to the last location on the mountain. But, for some reason, my phone refreshed the web page that I had my photo and video preloaded on as I pressed submit for my final, official submission. So while the guys were posting to the board, I was reloading the content onto the page and then pressing submit. This process took me just about exactly :27 extra seconds. Within that time, Bill and Charlie had posted to the board (which I am stoked they did, because I want them to win before me) and another guy who finished at another location who’s submission popped in right between us. So, 26 mountains, and I lost by :27! Lol.

So, I did finish with the guys, it just came down to a phone loading issue that wasn’t really preventable, could have happened to any of us, and I’m glad it happened to me.

I can’t express how much I know that Hydle and Rhinehart deserved to win this race. Not only was the team preparation so incredibly in depth, but their attitudes, personalities, charisma, passions and content were spot on with what Vail wanted to see out of the racers, and Rhinehart did an edit for EVERY single mountain we skied (including the two a day’s in Europe). I don’t think anyone else on the race put in as much solid effort, as well as having the right spirit of the race throughout. Mad props to my teammates on that.

I am so incredibly and genuinely stoked for them and so proud of them.

And, along those lines, many of the other racers in the top 10 were awesome, and I am also super stoked for them as well.

One final thought, Bill and Charlie (our alliance team members on the final day) we believe still have a shot at making it into the top 10 if any final tweaks still come from the leaderboard. The Vail rules very specifically say that incomplete submissions will not be approved, however somehow Brittany and Cory Heintz – currently in the top 10, still have an incomplete link for their YouTube videos. I know that enough questions have been raised from fellow racers that this is likely still being researched a little deeper among Vail currently. So, in the chance that they move out of the top 10, I would be so freaking excited if Bill and Charlie got to join the leaderboard for lifetime passes. They are great people and fully deserve to make it in if this happens!

The cool thing is, even post race we have all gotten even closer with a lot of racers, it seems that we all have this common bond and understanding among those of us that got close, and I’m excited to have a larger skiing community to relate to and ski with in the future!

All in all, the experience was freaking rad. We are so glad we got to participate in this. It sometimes feels like a dream that it actually all happened. The friendships and memories we made will stick with us for life, and now, Hydle and Rhinehart get to SKI…FOR FREE…FOR LIFE!!! Thank you, one last time, to everyone who supported us from home, everyone who followed us online, reached out and congratulated us, and for watching our videos and reading our blogs! Welcome home to Colorado Hydle. Can’t wait for a Team Fun reunion on the slopes again soon!

Mountain 26 – Brides Les Baines, Les Tres Vallees, France – The Final Epic Race Day!

Greg Hydle Devin Rhinehart Ashley Cooley Kaylin Richardson Bill Charlie Fiveash

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!



Epic Race Mountain 25 – Meribel, Les Tres Vallees, France


Yesterday we did our final mountain of the race before the final scavenger hunt day today for Brides Les Baines, Les Allues and Meribel. It was a pas a pretty uneventuful day since I think everyone was wanting to prep and feel good for today. It was snowing, which was the first time we’ve had snow since arriving in Europe! But the visibility was pretty bad, so we all took it really easy, nobody wanted to get hurt before the final day!

We ran into a bunch of epic racers and took some pics in front of the final stop at Meribel, Mont Vallon, where the lift was still closed. And the rest of the day we just spent cruising all around Meribel, getting familiar with the mountain.

Once we were done with the mountain, we packed up our room and headed down to our new room in Brides Les Baines. We saw a few fellow epic racers in town, chatted with all of them for a bit, and then grabbed dinner at one of only two restaurants in town that were open. We saw some more epic racers at dinner, and everyone wanted to talk about what would happen today. Rhinehart finished his final edit of the trip at dinner, and then we all went back to the room and called it a night early.

Now we are at the calm before the storm in our rooms. As much as we’ve tried to prepare and strategize, we also all just have no idea what is going to happen today. Some predictions are that we will have to do a lot of running through towns and between lifts. I’m nervous because the guys are WAY faster than I am at both skating on skis, and running. I’m gonna be the weakest link physically for sure! I feel fine about keeping up with them on skis, but the stuff in town is gonna be really tough for me!

I also hope that however this final day happens, it doesn’t leave a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. We’ve had so much fun so far, that would suck for it to end poorly for us/everyone else and leave with that being our primary memory!

We have met so many super cool people, people that totally deserve to win, people who have sacrificed a lot to be here. People who brought their kids to literally give them an experience of a lifetime (hopefully the kids appreciate it, I think they will!) I definitely think we will leave here with some friends we will stay in touch with.

We’re excited and nervous and ready to rock this morning. It all begins at 9 am local time, and who knows what will happen after that!


Epic Race Mountains 23 & 24 – Courcheval & La Tania, Les Tres Vallees, France


So last night we ended up going out to dinner across the street from our hotel at a restaurant/bar that ended up having a lot of epic racers, and young Brits at it.

We had a decent dinner and then headed upstairs to the bar where a pretty sweet live band was playing. Every epic racer in the bar knew who Hydle was, and came up to him to tell him how much they loved him and his videos.

Adam showed up, and we eventually ended up taking a shot ski with a group of epic racers, oh boy, I was feeling that this morning!

We called it a night at about 12:30 since we actually had a lot of skiing to do the next day whereas a lot of the other epic racers are finished with their 25 resorts, just waiting on the 26 on Friday.

This morning we all were running a bit slow and we ended up getting out of the room around 10:30 (after Rhinehart made some epic eggs mixed with our leftover chicken and rice dinner) Hydle claimed it was the best breakfast yet in Europe!

We headed straight up to the top of Courcheval, took some pics and videos, and then bombed down in some nice soft smooth sunny groomer snow.

When we got to the village, we met straight up with Eric (Vail videographer for the race) and Kaylin Richardson, two time Olympian skier!

They had asked the guys earlier if they could meet up to get some footage of all of us skiing, so it was nice that we found them that easily.

We got our stamps, played around in the village and then headed back up to the top to get some lunch and then some skiing!

We had lunch at the top of Courcheval, where we sat in a a sweet circular couch set that looked like bottle service. And then we headed off to get back to some skiing!

Dude. Kaylin is riiiiiiidiculously amazing at skiing! I’m pretty sure every guy on the mountain had a crush on her. Shit. I have a crush on her! I thought I knew what good “girl skiing” looked like. Haha. Nope. She just raised that about 10 levels above what I thought I knew. She was so friendly and so cool and normal I guess if I can use that word. In other words, she felt like she was just a super fun friend to ski with (who happened to rip the shit out of skiing).

We had a lot of fun playing around in the soft sunshine snow, and we did some shots of us skiing powder 8s as a group, although Kaylin was such a good skier she kinda made everyone looked bad (in a fun good way!)

We called it a day with Eric and Kaylin because we needed to head over to La Tania to finish up our checklist over there. I’ve got to say, it was pretty damn fun getting to ski with a super fun, cool, and rad Olympic skier for a few hours! Hell ya Kaylin!

As soon as we dropped in over to La Tania it got super shady and cold and kinda icy :/ Maybe that place rocks in the morning if they have sunshine but by the afternoon it was all in the shade and not much was going on. So we made our visit quick and headed back up to get our final shot of the day at the top of Les Dous Lanches, which is at one of he highest peaks overlooking everything at the resort. Hydle is still concerned with me being fast because my normal leisurely pace is pretty slow, so as we were getting off a gondola he said “ok we need to practice our speed, everyone needs to race off this gondola to the next lift.” So we all charged it and made it to the next lift at the same time and rode it up. So freaking pretty up there!

We were pushing time at this point because we had to make it back to Meribel, so we cruised back to another lift, and then the huge tram, and then dropped back down into the Meribel village.

We ran into more epic racers at the top of the final run into the village, and we all cruise down the final run which was pretty icy, back to our place.

Once we got back, we all decided to check out Brides Les Baines and Les Allues because we hadn’t seen them yet, so we headed out just to explore.

We ended up having dinner at the cutest little French place run by an adorable husband and wife team, with a lot of woodwork inside the small restaurant, and a cute little bar and fireplace. We all had steak and hamburgers which has been hard to come by so far, considering most meals have primarily consisted of ham and sausage for some reason out here! We were stoked on the food, the service and the ambiance at this little place in Les Allues called L’Arbe. Loved it!

Now we are just gonna call it a night as we’ve got a big next two days ahead of us in the home stretch of the race!


Rhinehart’s Video – La Tania
Hydle’s Video – La Tania
Cooley’s Video – Courcheval
Cooley’s Video – La Tania

Epic Race Mountains 21 & 22 – Saint Martin de Belleville & Les Menuires, Les Tres Vallees, France


This morning Hydle and I actually woke up before Rhinehart because he ended up going out a little bit last night and we stayed in to catch up on some sleep. Last night, I ended up knocking my (empty) wine glass off the armrest of the couch and broke the glass. This morning, while shuffling around dealing with breakfast stuff, Rhinehart broke a glass. Then, Hydle and I were ready slightly before Rhinehart, and we were giving him crap because partially why he was ready after us was because he was cleaning up his broken glass.

So, then, Rhinehart finished up getting ready ready first and walked out the door just to prove he actually was ready before us, and Hydle was like “fine, then this is why I’m late too!” and he threw his glass off to the side and it bounced onto the patio (the door happened to be open) and broke on the patio. Haha, of course when he breaks a glass on purpose, it breaks outside, so convenient!

After that we headed off to the mountain since we knew we had a long day ahead of us checking off St Martin de Belleville and Les Menuires. Hydle has been “training” me all week, giving me lessons and drills on how to get in and out of my skis the quickest, skate fast between lifts, pop my bindings off and grab my skis and run fast, etc. So, I initially had trouble pulling my skis apart because the brakes were criss crossed, and when I finally made it to the first gondola line of the morning, Hydle was there tapping his wrist to let me know I wasn’t fast enough. Everything is a test, and he’s like a drill sergeant in training for this final race day on Friday!

We first skied straight over to St Martin de Belleville where there was a sign at the top of the run that led into the village that warned us that it may be poor coverage and dangerous and to be safe. Haha. It turned out to be one of the most fun, sunshine lit, smooth, soft groomers we’ve skied yet, with full coverage!

We lapped that twice, got our stamps done in the village, and then headed back up to then make it over to Les Menuires, which was a ways away also. Of course we ran into Adam like we always do en route to Les Menuires, so he grouped up with us for a bit too.

It took us a few runs/lifts/gondolas to get up to the top of Les Menuires, La Masse 2 lift, and we ran into Trevor, Colin and Ryan, other epic racers we hung out with at the top of Verbier! We chatted with them, and then next up, we ran into Jeff and Jannah Din who we had lunch with yesterday! Jannah’s knee was hurting her, so she said she was going to take the gondola down, and the rest of us skied down a pretty fun run, into a sunshine filled deck at a restaurant that had “La Masse” in the name I think.

Adam branched off, and we had a nice lunch on the deck with Jannah and Jeff. The sun went down on the deck at the lunch spot right around 2, so we decided to head off and go get our stamps done at Les Menuires.

We rode the funnest lift yet on the way to Les Menuires. It was a 5 pack people mover that basically crossed you over the road into the Les Menuires village. Since there were 5 of us, we each grabbed one of the people movers, and had some fun taking pics and videos on the ride over with one of us per people mover all lined up in a train formation.

From there, we got our stamps, and then started to make our way back to Meribel, since you have to start kinda early to make it back to your home base village when you’re on a mountain this huge.

On our way back, we got distracted by a super sunny deck that had tons of lounge chairs facing the sun. We grabbed a round of beers there, took more fun panoramas, and kept saying we felt like we were at the beach, except we were epic racing!

Jannah’s knee was hurting pretty bad by this point (she is recovering from knee surgery, and kinda re-injured it yesterday she said). So, we cruised nice and slow back towared Meribel.

On literally the last run of the day. The home stretch run. The crew was skiing pretty slow actually because we were making sure Jannah was going to make it down ok, as she was taking her time with her hurt knee.

I have NO idea how this happened, but I was cruising last in line of the 5 of us, Jeff was 4th, and we were all going at a moderate speed for our normal pace, and Jeff somehow caught an edge and launched himself forward up and over his skis. I really have no idea how he crashed this hard, he’s an experienced skier, and there was no bumps in the snow that would have really explained how he crashed, but somehow he went sailing forward over his skis, and his shoulder and head hit first, and then he somersaulted over and one of his skis popped off. It was so gnarly. I haven’t seen a crash like that in a long time. Ugh.

I stopped and asked him if he was ok as I was picking up one of his poles. At first he seemed alright, but I told him “Dude chill out for a second, that was a super gnarly crash, don’t try to get up yet.” So he sat there for a bit, and I kept asking him questions like “did you hit your head? What hurts? How do you feel?” and he got a little bit more out of it with each question and I said “you look really sick, you’re out of it, I’m going to get someone to get ski patrol for you.” At first he was insisting he was fine and that his shoulder just hurt a little bit, but I kept saying there was no way I was letting him stand up yet because it was clear he was pretty out of it. As I was telling him he should just relax and lay down because we were gonna get ski patrol, his eyes kinda rolled back and he laid down and fainted/passed out, but with his eyes open.

This freaked me out because I was worried that he was passing out because of a head injury. But when he came to about 30 second later, he was actually a lot more coherent than before. I still insisted we were getting ski patrol because I was still worried that he passed out because of hitting his head. But then he started answering all of my questions normally, and he said that he has a history of fainting any time he has an injury, or even when he gets his blood pressure taken! When he said “Cooley, I know I can ski back down, I’m ok” I started to realize he was probably ok, but he did say his shoulder was still hurting. So I asked him if I could see his shoulder, and unzipped his jacket and felt it and he had a big bump/bone lodged up from his shoulder.

The ski patrol finally came, but Jeff was pretty insistent on not wanting to get loaded up in the toboggan because he knew he could ski it down, and then when the ski patrol told us if he took the ride down, it would be considered a rescue and it would require insurance paperwork, etc, I realized it probably would be ok for him to ski down.

So, we took it nice and easy, and skied down, and finally made it to where the rest of our group was waiting for us (this was probably at least 25 minutes after his crash, so they had been waiting a while!).

Jeff ended up going to the doctor, and this evening Jannah sent us a Facebook message with a picture of his xray that showed his collarbone was broken. ☹ Poor guy. They are so cool, I’m super bummed that he broke his collarbone, and Jannah reinjured her knee. Ugh. But at least we made some new friends, they are awesome, stoked we met up and got to spend the day with them, hopefully we will get to still hang some more too!

Now we came back to the room, and Hydle and I decided to try to go to the mini grocery store/market across the street to try to find some options for dinner. Well, Rhinehart is gluten free/celiac, so he definitely can not mess with having any gluten. This is difficult because none of us know French, which all of the food labels are in, and the grocery store didn’t’ have a lot of options. So after striking out on every idea we had for dinner (and being pretty tired of eating meat and cheese only) we decided to forget it and that we would go out to dinner.

So we are about to head out for our first night out in Meribel, hopefully it rocks!! Feel better Jeff!

Hydle’s Video – Saint Martin de Belleville

Rhinehart’s Video – Les Menuires
Hydle’s Video – Les Menuires
Cooley’s Video – Saint Martin de Belleville
Cooley’s Video – Les Menuires