Wrong-way skiing – Charity uphill race benefits Junior Olympics
Some people tackle the hill on snowshoes, some even do it in tennis shoes.
Others choose more conventional modes, like cross-country skis.
While strategies and tactics on the quickest way to the top vary, one thing is for sure – Billy Dutton skied to his own drummer – and so does the race that is held in his honor.
Dutton will be remembered and honored on April 7 at Squaw Valley, when the 13th Annual Billy Dutton Uphill Race sends up to a hundred skiers, snowshoers and trekkers on a frantic, 3.2 mile climb up KT-22 to High Camp.
“Billy was the opposite, he liked to ski uphill,” said Doug Read, one of Dutton’s best friends for over 10 years. Both Read and Dutton were also founding members of the Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue Team.
The race started in 1989 when friends and family gathered to remember Dutton, who passed away in 1988 from a brain tumor, and retrace one of his favorite routes.
“One of his favorite things to do as training for The Great Race was, everyday, he would ski from the bottom of Squaw to the top,” said Dutton’s brother, John Walsh. “So that is how the race started.”
Initially the race was an all skier ascent from the base of KT-22 to High Camp.
Over the years the format has changed and added snowshoers, as well as skate and diagonal-stride skiers.
Last year, snowfall just before the day of the race allowed a snowshoer, Peter Fain of Plumpjack’s, to win for the first time.
But race organizers and the Dutton family are quick to point out that the race is really about something else.
“Basically, it’s just to have a good time and remember Billy,” said Walsh.
The race is also a fund raising event for the U.S. Ski association’s Far West cross-country team.
“Initially [the proceeds] went to the American Cancer Society. Then they went to Truckee and North Tahoe high schools, and then they decided they wanted to set up scholarship fund for Junior Olympic skiers,” said LaVan Rassuchine, an organizer for race. “It can cost $2,000 to $2,500 to send a kid to the Junior Olympics.”
After covering the costs of the race, all the money raised goes toward the scholarship fund.
Despite growing up in a family full of downhill skiers, some of whom raced professionally, Dutton preferred cross-country skiing.
“He had the lungs, we didn’t,” Walsh said with a laugh. “And he enjoyed the backcountry.”
Dutton had other interests as well.
When he wasn’t skiing for fun or helping rescue lost or injured skiers, he would often spend hours preparing area ponds so his Squaw Valley Chiefs hockey team could practice and play.
“He used to spend a lot of time clearing ice ponds. He would spend all afternoon clearing ponds and getting them ready for hockey,” Read said, who remembered something else about Dutton. “He had a big smile, he was always smiling.”
Registration for the Billy Dutton Uphill is at 7 a.m. (Race organizers want to remind everyone to turn their clocks one hour ahead the night before, as April 7 will be the first day of Daylight Savings Time.)
After the race, prizes will be awarded to the top finishers and a party will be held for all at High Camp.
For more information, call Squaw Valley at 583-6985 and ask for race services.
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