hots-2016

Shannon Haida-Wipf, Kevin Eike, Leilani and Chris Barney, Dan Kneip, Stacey Larsen and the author enjoying HOTS 2016. Photos by Sean Jacks.

In the two years since we last held a Hope on the Slopes event on Mount Hood, about 3.5 million Americans were diagnosed with cancer, and more than a million died from cancer.  What can we possibly do about this?

In a sense, there isn't much we can do. Cancer is as large and heavy as climate change or global poverty and every bit as overwhelming. With half a million people dying every year just in the U.S., it is a rare person who has not lost family or friends to cancer.

The young woman who served as the co-captain of our Hope on the Slopes team in 2014, Lisa Moulding, was diagnosed with stage IV stomach cancer a year ago at the age of 34. The Mount Hood community rallied to raise more than $36,000 for Lisa with #love4lisa and #fuckcancer gatherings, but within months the cancer had spread into her lungs and she died on May 21, 2015. That sense of loss was powerful in the background as we went through the fundraising, organizing and bittersweet celebration of another round of Hope on the Slopes.

Last year's event was canceled due to lack of snow, and the year before we got 24 hours of Oregon rain. But this year the snow gods delivered a nice white blanket of Cascade Concrete for our shredding pleasure. The snow fell sporadically all day, and by Sunday morning we had fresh powder in the Upper Bowl to go with some tasty mashed potatoes over refrozen funky crud.

Hope on the Slopes is a 24-hour vertical challenge, with individual and team prizes awarded for the most vertical feet. More importantly, it is a fundraising event for cancer research. The fundraising isn't tied to vertical, because that could lead to some scary all-night bombing with high potential for injury. It's already pretty wild to watch straight-line-bombadiers like Luis Castaneda rip one run after another down Canyon at about 60 miles an hour. Luis racked up over 88,000 feet this year, and he would have topped a hundred grand easily, except his lead was so big he decided to take it easy toward the end. Here he is celebrating his third HOTS vertical victory at Skibowl:

For the rest of us mere mortals, Hope on the Slopes is more of an opportunity to get out and appreciate the mountain with special people in mind. There's a torchlight parade down the Lower Bowl, an 11 pm pizza party, and plenty of opportunities to joke around inside the Historic Warming Hut.

Lisa Moulding's sister-in-law Jennifer Deem drove down all the way from Crystal Mountain, where her daughter had just won a big race earlier in the day.  She didn't arrive until it was quite late and only the most hard-core participants were still out lapping the Lower Bowl, but at least she got to make a few turns in memory.

Our team captain Dan Kneip is the guy in the lower left of this photo. He's a cancer survivor who has endured 26 sessions of radiation therapy, 20 sessions of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, 16 surgeries (10 of them major), a permanent colostomy and more CT scans than he cares to recall. His love of the mountain was a big motivator in his recovery process, and he has been cancer free for a while now. Still, it isn't easy.

"My goal is to try to get to the point where every cancer patient has a chance to call themselves a cancer survivor," he told me. "Survivor’s guilt is real. It’s a problem that doesn’t get talked about a lot because everybody assumes that you’re a survivor so you should be excited and happy. You made it. The reality is, you feel terrible about everybody who will never have a chance to call themselves a survivor."

It's easy to take things for granted, to slip into tree-well-like ruts that can last weeks, months, even years. We need rituals like this to remind us of how fortunate we are to enjoy these mountains, this snow, that amazing feeling of floating and flying downhill. Because it cannot and will not last forever.

The 50 or so hardy souls who participated in this year's Hope on the Slopes fundraiser had an excellent time while raising more than $40,000 for cancer research. Top fundraising teams were Precision Castparts, Weyerhaeuser, our team, Controlled Division, Team Robin and Hoodland Fire. Top individual fundraisers were Gary Collison, Kevin Eike, Andy Betourne, Mindy Morrison and Dan Kneip.

Big thanks to everyone who donated to this year's event, and special thanks to my teammate Sean Jacks for another batch of great photos that capture the camaraderie and good times of this Mount Hood tradition. C'mon out and join us next year for 24 hours on the mountain for a good cause.

Kevin Eike and his son Vince enjoying the fresh snow.