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Photo Story: Last Skier Standing 2022

By Katherine Donnelly on

If you haven't yet heard of the event called Last Skier Standing, then prepare yourself for what some might consider cruel and unusual punishment masquerading as a fun and friendly competition tucked into a corner of New Hampshire's Mount Washington Valley.

This annual event is hosted by Ski The Whites, a year-round adventure shop and community hub located just down the road from Jackson's family-operated Black Mountain where the festivities take place.

Looking down on the base of Black Mountain.

The premise is pretty simple: participants - this year, 94 skiers and splitboarders alike took to the start corral - would take one lap up and then down the mountain every hour. The course meandered its way up to the top of Black, with approximately 1,100 ft, of elevation gain, before making its way back down to the start again and complete the 2.5 mile slog. The competition would end once there is only one person remaining, hence the title 'Last Skier Standing'.

Where it begins to get a bit more complicated is also where things begin to get interesting, as the first day fades into darkness, temperatures plummeting and bodies wearing down, and people continue to make the slog up and down, up and down. Until the sun begins to rise again in the morning, peaking over the Eastern hills, only to show competitors still going up and down, up and down, up and down. And even if it is a bit of a spoiler, this year's event went through three (yes, three!) sunsets, two sunrises, and participants witnessed everything from spring skiing conditions with 50 degree temps to negative degree windchills with wind advisories, plus a little bit of snow and rain mixed in throughout for good measure.

After the 12 hour mark only 41 skiers (and a just few splitboarders) were left, and that number only halved by the time hour 24 came and went. Now don't get me wrong, skiing for 12 to 24 hours straight is already mind-boggling, something that each and every one of these incredible humans should celebrate (as I hope they did); but this is a part of a much bigger story, where larger numbers and absolutely outrageous amounts of both physical and mental strength were on display, and what seemed impressive at the time merely set the stage for what was to come. And so, as time ticked away (and I really do mean tick, as every second on the timer could be heard around the base area) so did the skiers....

As the event continued into its second day and evening, the overall scene and atmosphere gradually shifted; what began as a festival of sorts, branded tents clustered and people packed around the start line to cheer, spectate, and support, dwindled down to less and less as the large timer clock marked each passing hour. The parking lot that proved absolutely chaotic on Saturday morning as folks arrived, registered, and fueled up, is now just a dirt lot with a smattering of cars and the occasional van. Sponsor tents have long packed up their merchandise, leaving barebones of what was quite the party on day one. Now, just a handful of hearty volunteers and the loyal support crews for the remaining skiers remain. Waiting, huddled in sleeping bags, and watching the clock. 

Last female standing, Meri Herrington, with 27 hours of extremely respectable effort.

At lap 27, we said goodbye to our final female competitor, Meri Herrington. Nearly each hour after that, one more participant dropped out. Lap 32 proved tough, and three more skiers called it quits (having talked about it at the top and deciding to pull out together) leaving only seven to battle it out. Six skiers, and one splitboarder. Now remember, at this point these seven people have now gone up and down the mountain 32 times, with no sleep (aside from maybe a small power nap here and there) and limited time to refuel, change layers, and lick their wounds for 32 hours. By the numbers, they had climbed over 35,000' and walked/slid over 80 miles. And like I said, things began to get really interesting as that second afternoon turned to night and the moon rose over what was left of the field. 

Now being a mere mortal myself, I went back to my hotel room after hour 34 wrapped up (and after awarding Spencer Ralston, of Hebron, CT, the TREW Best Vibes Award for his persistent smile and contagious positivity) to get some much-needed shut eye. Throughout that second night, four more would pack up and head to bed (including the final splitboarder, Jack Murphy, at lap 36). And as the sun rose back up into the sky, masked by clouds and threatening precip, I walked back to the base of the mountain to find the final three continuing on their mission. Up and down, up and down, up and down. 

Best Vibes (and a TREW kit) went to Spencer, who was incessantly hootin' and hollerin' and having a good time (in spite of the pain). 

Rich Connell of Bristol, VT, Ben Eck of Somerville, MA, and Brody Leven of Salt Lake City, UT, got to spend some really quality time together as they pushed out 16 more laps together. Watching from the sidelines, it was hard to tell who would be the next to surrender; in between some more incoherent moments and downright exhausted banter, there were still jokes being thrown around, smiles being cracked, and a steady pace from all three proved that each one of these men had some seriously impressive will power. But after lap 57, Rich saw his chance to dive out and left Ben and Brody to finish it off. 

By this point, things weren't just interesting....they were getting downright weird. Have you ever heard of someone falling asleep while skinning? No? Me neither, but it turns out it can happen when you just won't stop. Communication was getting shaky, at best, and there were definitely some strange mutterings of incoherent thoughts coming from both gentlemen. Both were still seemingly sturdy on their skis, but when they clicked out for their short breaks to snack + rehydrate every hour, walking to and from the heated tent was a war in itself having been skinning for over 60 hours straight. 

A view down upon the final bootpack up the final 300 ft of the ascent. 

Now I unfortunately had to pack up and go home at this point. You know, work and life and all that...but with Ski The Whites running an awesome live stream of updates and commentary on the action online, I was able to keep tabs on what went down for the last portion of the show. Ben and Brody kept pushing themselves well past their limits, and after lap 64 Ben decided he had had enough, leaving Brody to finish it out with one final lap: good ol' lap 65.

In total, Brody put down a staggering 162.5 miles and 71,500' of climbing (and don't forget that same amount of descending, as well) in 65 hours to take home the 2022 title of Last Skier Standing. 

And with those absolutely mind-bending and momentous stats, I'll call this story complete and shift over to photos; after all, images always seem to do a much better job of depicting the full picture (pun intended). But if you ever have a hard time getting out of bed for an early morning tour, or going up for just one more lap, just remember these incredible people and what they did over the span of three days - and that you CAN do anything if you put your mind to it. We humans are capable of some otherworldly feats, and what went down last weekend at a small mountain in New England is a testament to just how far a strong mind (and sure, body too) can take us. 

Andrew Drummond setting the course for a long day, er, few days of friendly competition.
Stocking up and getting the hydration station ready to go. The volunteers were hard at work throughout the event.
Tents assembled, and the support crew in the foreground ;)
All smiles.
With the race starting at 10am, folks began funneling in to get registered by Monte and ready to go.
Time to bib up, it's race day.
It's the guy in shorts. Everyone loves the guy in shorts.
The fuel of champions, and the peel to prove it.
I'm sorry, but Blueberry was just too cute not to include here. Cute dogs were out in full force.
Game face on. A moment of zen before kick-off.
Drum roll....two minutes 'til go time.
Oh, the smiles of the fresh legged. And so the race begins....
Helmets were required, but they didn't specify much else.
A howling good time cheering the racers on.
A mere 35 minutes after the race kicked off, participants began to stream through the finish line to complete lap 1.
And so began the pattern: up and down, up and down.
Just a casual jaunt up a hill. Just another Saturday...
It's called scenic hiking.
The course meandered its way through a slick and steep mogul field skier's right of the double chair.
More than a few lost their footing as the snow turned to slush and the slush tuned to wet rocks.
And to think that people willingly signed up to hike this, over and over and over....
Headlamps out and on, folks.
Day turned to night in what seemed like a blink of the eye, and soon spots of light could be seen speckling the mountain trails.
High fives well into the night.
There was something magical about spending the night with nearly 50 new friends.
Night moves.
Rinse + repeat.
Morning came quick, but it stayed chilly through day two.
Black Mountain kept the grooming game on point, and began day 2 with a fresh track of cord to make the uphill and downhill a bit more pleasant for all.
No sleep, no problems. Jack Murphy would go on to become the Last Splitboarder Standing, with 36 laps.
The undying ticking of the clock was a metronome in the background as 24 hours loomed in the not so distant future.
Head down and keep moving.

Oh, the stories that must have been told on the skintrack.
It wasn't long before the pack got thin.
Oh look, another picture of people hiking up a mountain!
Friends make struggling a little bit easier (and much more fun).
A rare snapshot of the downhill. Less shred, more straight-line-and-survive.
 Volunteer 101: bring a portable pizza oven. And don't forget the hot honey.
Transitioning in the presence of the Presidentials.
Brody continued to show his strength and fortitude as he lead the way, up and down.
 Ben (the assist) and Rich rounding the final turns of the bootpack to the summit, as seen through the lift tower.
Sleep-deprived smiles.
Scenes from the waiting game at the bottom, featuring Squall and his glove-stealing cuteness.

 

Read more and catch even more epic photos + behind the scenes happenings from a few of our favorite publications who helped cover the event:

I also highly recommend taking to Spotify to listen to the Ski the Whites Podcast - LSS 2022 Recap with Brody Leven. Well worth your time, Brody is an incredible human being (on and off the hill) and it's pretty damn remarkable to hear more about how the race went for him.

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2 comments

  • Brody Leven on

    I just came across this while googling myself like a narcissistic psycho and appreciate your perspective and taking the time to write this so much. Thank you for supporting the event and for putting together a fun wrap-up. You sure didn’t miss anything at the end…
    -brody

  • Mw on

    Well written story, exhaustion must of let auto correct take over, might want to find/replace the word skinning.

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