By Kyle Magin
TQ Managing Editor
Are you ready for Tough Mudder? The all-out obstacle course dreamed up by ex-British Special Forces and laid out across 11.38 miles at Northstar California Resort this weekend? TQ checked out the course for a preview Friday morning.
For a little background, Tough Mudder is a 3-year old challenge that has grown from a small race in Pennsylvania to a 30-plus event tour spanning multiple continents. Tahoe is playing host to a TM event for the second straight year now—last year the race was held at Squaw Valley. Organizers are expecting 15,000 participants Saturday and between 3,000-4,000 more Sunday, as well as up to 3,000 spectators. A Northstar employee told me that the heaviest ski day sees about 12,000 people on the mountain.
“This will be the largest single-day event in Northstar history,” says Nadia Guerriero, general manager of the Village at Northstar. That’s no small feat—remember, just a few years ago, the resort hosted the Dew Tour.
The course, designed by Tough Mudder Lead Course Designer Nolan Kombol and a crew of 10-12, plus Northstar mountain operations staff, took about three weeks to dig out and erect. It spans, as mentioned, 11.38 miles, features 22 obstacles and includes a 2,000-foot vertical climb from mid-mountain (top of the Big Spring Gondola) to the top of the Zephyr lift.The course mainly runs along the resort’s fire roads so as to minimize impact to ski runs and environmentally sensitive areas, Guerriero says.
Negotiations started with Nortstar about a year ago, though Tough Mudder has been scouting the mountain for about a year and a half, Kombol says.
“There are just some great conditions to work with on this mountain,” Kombol says. “It’s got elevation changes, logs already down across the course, natural mud pits. It’s got a lot more than some of the other places we’ve built courses.”
“It’s been an amazing working relationship so far,” says Guerriero.
Bringing a potential 20,000 people into Northstar in one weekend is a logistical balancing act, requiring Tough Mudder to contract a fleet of shuttles to bring in participants from as far away as Soda Springs and Boreal, where participants driving in from the Bay Area are asked to park. Truckee Riving Rafting Company and Alpine Meadows are also offering the use of their parking lots for the event.
“The key is to get here early,” says Jess Van Pernis, Northstar communications director.
Once there, participants can either walk up to mid-mountain from the Village or take the Big Springs Gondola up. There will be areas to check your bags (really, you need to bring a change of clothes AND clean shoes) and take showers once you’re done. Spectators can watch the start and finish in the gondola area and ascend the mountain on the Zephyr lift to see obstacles higher on the course.
Northstar’s Ski Patrol, Amphibious Medical and other local rescue agencies will be on hand to tend to injuries running the gamut from scrapes to breaks and blackouts, says Kombol. Medical staff on average makes about 300-400 contacts with Mudders during a given weekend, he adds.
Mudders often ditch their demolished shoes after a race, but a group called GreenSneakers accepts them as donations, and cleans them up for re-use.
“They love dirty shoes and we love not cleaning them up,” Kombol says.
With entry fees starting north or $90, being a Mudder isn’t cheap. But the events are expanding rapidly because it provides such a unique exprerience, Kombol says.
“You can come out and be a kid again,” Kombol says. “People love watching shows like Wipe Out, and we give them those kinds of obstacles. We get a lot of people who may never have gotten out for a marathon or triathlon.”
TM also gives back, donating more than $3.5 million to the Wounded Warriors project so far, an organization that assists wounded military veterans. Some Wounded Warriors are expected to participate this weekend.
The event will probably be in Tahoe for the foreseeable future, says Kombol.
“People really like coming to Tahoe and we like to put these in places that people like to visit,” he adds.
On Friday, two brothers, Bob Farrell of Jacksonville, Florida and Ted Farrell of Los Gatos, California, were out scouting the course.
“It’s right here in our back yard, so I though, let’s do it,” Ted says.
I’ll try not to give too much away, but if you’re Muddering this weekend, make sure you stretch. The course looks fierce, and the Everest obstacle—a quarter-pipe you must scale which will undoubtedly become covered in mud—was damned difficult. It’s immediately followed by the Electroshock Therapy electric wires, which Kombol says feels like getting punched about the chest and arms, then the finish line, where a cold Dos Equis awaits each participant. Funky Monkey—an inverted monkey bars challenge positioned over a five foot pool of chilly water—contains a hidden challenge, in that *some* of the bars are covered in grease and made to rotate. Kombol doesn’t deny the charge.
Good luck. TQ’s team starts at the 8 a.m. slot, so we should be in the cardiac ward around 10 a.m.
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