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Big Mountain Battle, Year Three

Introducing a ski competition that doesn’t involve gold medals, spandex, body armor, or sixty 60-foot cliff drops—it’s a comp for the rest of us and requires only punctuality.

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The Big Mountain Battle pride’s itself on being an event any advanced skier can compete in, but it’s no NASTAR. Sponsorship from Helly -Hansen and Dakine give it legitimacy. A grand prize of an all-expense paid trip to compete at Aspen and a Helly-Hansen shopping spree gives you a reason to ski fast. And with five more stops on the tour ranging from Fernie, British Columbia, to Smugglers Notch, Vermont, you have ample opportunity to compete. This year’s Big Mountain Battle circuit kicked off at Taos, New Mexico February 6 with a record 47 teams competing—the highest turn out last year was 36.

The comp’s format sends teams of two, each wearing a Flaik GPS tracker, on a scavenger hunt to find checkpoints scattered over the mountain. Teams are given a map to plot their routes and only a few rules: Start on time, end on time, and don’t ski recklessly. Oh, and no tucking. Absolutely no tucking. The first team to reach all the check points and make it to the bottom wins.

This was Taos’s first time on the tour and the course sent competitors everywhere from expert-only terrain off the Highline Ridge to green cruisers at the bottom of the hill. “It’s a new way to experience your local hill,” says Marc Campbell, Big Mountain Battle’s coordinator and developer. “It is geared a little more towards locals; we want locals to be representing their mountain at the Battle of the Bowls in Aspen. But first place or last, everyone had fun out there today and that’s really why we put this event on.”

The winners, Taos locals Keith Christian and Mike Wagner, who another local described as “Veritable wrecking balls of skiers,” beat out the second place team by one minute and the third place team by two minutes. “You know, it was just plain fun,” said Christian. “Being a local and knowing the hill made the difference, but at the end of the day, the competition was just plain fun.” Christian and Wagner head to the Final Battle Battle of the Bowls in Aspen/Snowmass on March 28. To see the event in action, check out this video.

Check out the Big Mountain Battle’s website for the event schedule and to sign up for your nearest competition. And if you decide to compete, here are five things you should know:

1. At the start point, you have to sprint about 200 yards around a pole before clicking into your skis, so take that into account when setting up your gear.

2. Don’t forget the map with all the checkpoints on it in your hotel room. Turns out this is pretty important.

3. Help other teams find checkpoints; chances are you’ll need help finding one later on. Plus it’s more fun this way.

4. Look for hidden checkpoints about 20 feet off marked trails in places you have to hike up to.

5. Despite what the instructions say there is a finish line. Make sure you cross that before going to the bar.