Where the mountains meet the sky: Broken Arrow Skyrace highlights weekend events | SierraSun.com

Where the mountains meet the sky: Broken Arrow Skyrace highlights weekend events

Kelly Wolf makes her way up the “Stairway to Heaven” ladder on her way to winning the 2017 Broken Arrow Sky Race. This year's event will take place June 21-23.
Courtesy of Alpenglow Sports

Nearly 1,500 of some of the most extreme endurance athletes from around the globe will descend on Squaw Valley this weekend for the fourth annual Broken Arrow Skyrace.

This year’s competition has attracted the largest field of athletes ever for a Broken Arrow event, challenging racers to a high-altitude course that will be covered with snow and ice.

“We’re expecting another snow year like in 2017,” said Co-Race Director and Founder Brendan Madigan. “We definitely have 60 to 80% of the course covered with snow, but because it’s sky running, it’s actually a really fantastic setup. People love it.”

Dubbed as the intersection of mountaineering and trail running, sky running is a sport popular in Europe, but gaining traction in the U.S. The Broken Arrow Skyrace, with its featured distances of 26 kilometers and 52 kilometers, is among the most competitive in the country. The event has also grown from roughly 500 racers in 2017, to 1,000 in 2018, and is now pushing 1,500 this year.

“A lot of Europeans are coming,” said Madigan. “We’ve got folks from Japan, Mexico, and Kenya — it’s one of the more competitive 26- and (52-kilometer races) in the country, if not, the most competitive.”

The three days of competition at Squaw Valley begins Friday with the vertical kilometer, a 3.1-mile, 3,100-foot climb from the valley floor to Squaw Peak. The dash up Squaw, according to Madigan, often attracts Western States Endurance Run participants, who are in the area preparing for the iconic event, which takes place the following weekend. Following Friday’s race will be a clinic with Salomon ambassador Peter Fain. The evening will conclude with the Trails in Motion Film Festival at Bare One at The Village at Squaw Valley.

On Saturday, athletes will take on the 52-kilomter race, which features a two-lap route taking sky runners from The Village at Squaw Valley onto trails, and then to ski area access trails to the top of Snow King. Eventually the runners make the climb up KT-22, and then over to Squaw Peak before traversing down into Shirley Basin. The route concludes with a run to High Camp, and then a descent back to the finish area at the KT Sun Deck to complete the first of two laps. The two loops will have a combined 10,500 feet of vertical gain and loss.

“More or less it’s the same as 2018 just with a little difference in Shirley Canyon because the ski resort is still operating,” said Madigan.

Last year’s women’s winner, Megan Kimmel, of Ridgway, Colorado, is expected to return to defend her crown. The men’s winner, Jimmy Elam, of Salt Lake City, won’t compete due to an invitation into Western States.

The second annual 11-kilometer race will also take place on Saturday.

“It’s what we call our gateway drug for folks who might be intimidated by the longer distances,” said Madigan. “It’s a nice way to see some of the course and not have such a challenging event.”

Saturday’s festivities also include live music by Chi McClean and Truth Cartel. There will also be a book signing with ultrarunner and author Mirna Valerio.

“She bucks the trend of stereotypical ultrarunners,” said Madigan. “Getting her here was a really great thing, and we’re super psyched to have her participate.”

Valerio started a blog, Fatgirlrunning, about her experiences as a larger woman in a world full of thin athletes. She’s since finished 10 ultramarathons and nine marathons and has been featured in articles nationally.

Saturday will conclude with an awards ceremony and après trail party at Auld Dubliner.

The 26-kilometer race will take place Sunday morning, followed by the start of the children’s race at 8:30 a.m. Music will be performed throughout the afternoon by Jeff Jones and Chile Verde.

“Come take advantage of the free events, spectate, and take part in the village party,” said Madigan. “Join us for the fun.”

Visit BrokenArrowSkyRace.com for more information.

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com.