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Dale Parshall won the vertical challenge with over 61,000 feet in six hours.

Skiers and snowboarders have raised more than $150,000 to defeat ALS this year, and donations are still coming in after a leg-burning vertical challenge Saturday, April 12 at Mt. Hood Meadows.

Honorary Chair and Mount Hood legend Fred Noble was in attendance, wearing a festive purple hat and cheering on participants as he struggled through his personal battle with ALS. The Fredinator is the largest fundraiser of this year's event, with $34,572.28 raised as of noon Thursday, April 17.

The goal of Ski to Defeat ALS is to raise as much money as possible for research, clinics, health care and family support for those who suffer from Lou Gehrig's disease, a degenerative muscular disease that is brutal and irreversible. Skiers and snowboarders form teams to raise money and compete in a day-long vertical challenge at Meadows. Adaptive skiing experts from Oregon Adaptive Sports bring monoski equipment to help people with ALS to enjoy the mountain. At the end of the day everyone gathers in the Vertical Restaurant for dinner and some words of inspiration.

The weather couldn't have been better for this year's event: sunny, clear and crisp in the morning with hard, fast snow that softened into perfect corn snow by 10:30 and held up fairly well into the afternoon even as the temperature soared up into the 50s.

I started off skiing with Jay Pollock, a top-level PACRAT racer who won the last three races of the season. Keeping up with Jay (or trying to) as he set out to win the vertical challenge was interesting to say the least, and a heck of a lot of fun. Little did we know that by getting in line for the first run up Mt. Hood Express with me, Jay lost his chance at the vertical title.

That's because while we were waiting for our first chair, sneaky Dale Parshall (another top PACRAT racer) was already halfway up the Stadium lift for a nonstop bomber down to the base. That one move made the difference as Dale ended up edging out Jay by a few hundred feet of vertical. They skied together for most of the day, ripping run after run down Cascade as the snow softened. Here they are bombing down:

And here they are riding up for more:

I was with them for a while, but they got one chair ahead of Mike Heffernan and me and then the lift stopped just as they were skating away and we were a few feet from offloading. Within a matter of seconds they were gone, and we had no chance of catching them the rest of the day.

That's okay. I had an excellent time with Mike, enjoying the sunshine and the super fast turns while Mike cranked up his punk rock tunes and messed with people on the chairlift with his off-the-wall statements. As a kid Mike raced on Mount Hood and at Sun Valley, and his favorite alpine event was downhill, so you know he can rip it. He also worked as a cop for 25 years, so you know he's tough. Never mind that he is 50 now, and he has Parkinson's. He took his meds on the chairlift and just kept on shredding, not stopping for six hours. Here we are at the top of Cascade:

Okay, so we got lapped by Dale and Jay once, maybe twice, but Mike and I put in some serious vertical that day. By 2 pm my quads were screaming and it seemed like all we talked about on the lift was how good that first beer was going to taste. Nonetheless I was happy to be there. The thing about these vertical challenge fundraisers is, they help you think about things from a broader perspective. They remind you of how lucky you are just to be out there in relatively good health, flying down a mountain at 50 miles an hour, run after run. 

This year's participants skied and snowboarded a combined total of 2.5 million vertical feet.

Dale Parshall ended up skiing 46 runs for over 61,000 feet in six hours, the top individual performance of the day. Jay Pollock was a very close second (although for some reason his feet didn't show up on the organization's website), and Mike Heffernan and I were not far behind them. But our Schnee Vogeli team had nothing on Team Fredinator, which racked up 724,309 vertical feet to win the team competition by a landslide.

Sonja Taylor and Jennifer Wilson of the Patty's Angels team came in a dead-even tie as the top woman competitors, with over 59,354 feet of vertical each. That put them just a run or two behind Dale and Jay, and a run or two ahead of Mike and me.

Franklin Control Systems won the award for top corporate team, while Team Mike Lopez was recognized as most spirited.

Here is a link to the final vertical feet tracking results.

And here is a link to an excellent photo essay by Randy Boverman, with pictures from this year's event and the first event back in 2012.

Ski to Defeat ALS has raised nearly half a million dollars over the past three years, largely through the efforts of Fred Noble. The plan is to continue holding the event annually at Meadows. As Meadows executive director for marketing and communications Dave Tragethon said, "Our goal is to have this event go until it is no longer needed."

If you would like to donate to the cause, you may do so here. They are accepting donations through June 1.

Fred Noble can no longer speak, but he wrote a note for his friends to share with the audience during dinner:

"You can kill me but you can't destroy my spirit."

Fred is the star of The Noble Spirit, a new documentary by Deep Roots Media that will be playing Thursday, April 24 at the Lake Oswego Theater, 106 N. State St. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the film shows at 7 p.m. There is a no-host bar and dinner. Tickets are $5.

Here is a preview to the documentary The Noble Spirit:

The Noble Spirit Trailer from Deep Roots Media - Dane Henry on Vimeo.