ski-als

Sunshine and camaraderie ruled for Ski to Defeat ALS 2016. Photos by Randy Boverman

Ski to Defeat ALS 2016 at Mt. Hood Meadows was a big success, with strong participation, adaptive ski experts on hand to help people with ALS enjoy the snow, and hot laps all day long for vertical challenge bragging rights.

Most importantly, event organizers from the Oregon and Southwest Washington Chapter of the ALS Association met and exceeded their fundraising goal of $100,000 to support research and treatment for ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neurodegenerative disease.

The temperature at the top of Cascade Chair at 9 am Saturday was over 60 degrees, with blue skies, bright sun and a whole lot of wet, slushy snow that got soupier as the day progressed. The event coincided with the Mazot Fest Fun Race, so there were plenty of skiers and snowboarders dressed for the beach, the pirate ship or both. There was a lot of energy on the mountain that day, and everyone I spoke with seemed to be in an excellent mood.

Several hundred people participated in the ALS festivities, including more than 90 from event sponsor Franklin Control Systems, which flew in participants from the East Coast and Hawaii. Volunteers from Oregon Adaptive Sports guided people with ALS on sit-skis and helped them to a good time on the mountain, as you can see from this photo of Rob Chadwick by Randy Boverman:

thumbs-up

Ski to Defeat ALS traces back its origins to the legendary Mt. Hood skier and heli-ski guide Fred Noble, who died from ALS in May of 2014. After Fred's death the folks at Franklin Controls stepped up to support the event and keep it going through last year's low-snow season, and they were rewarded with an excellent turn-out for 2016, boding well for the future.

Last year's thin snow pack forced the cancellation of the vertical challenge for safety reasons, but it was back on this year, and I can tell you from experience that it was a humdinger. My buddy Mike Heffernan and I were locked in a day-long duel with our arch-nemesis and defending champ Dale "I'll be taking it easy this year because of my knee" Parshall.

Here's a selfie I shot of Mike and me midway through one of 43 eight-minute round trips up and down:

We got the jump on Dale early and took it straight to Cascade, where the snow was nice and hard and fast for all of 30 minutes, and we stretched our lead steadily by ripping it straight and fast, waxing each other's skis on the lift, and cranking up the punk rock to keep things loose and a bit nutty. But just as we were getting ready to finally lap Dale after four hours without a break, his knee injury mysteriously vanished, and suddenly he was carving turns through the muck like water flowing downhill. We started getting tired and sloppy, slowing down to avoid injury - but not Dale. We felt like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, looking back at the lawmen gaining on them: "Who are those guys?"

At some point you have to eat, drink water, use a bathroom. But we were not going to let that son of a gun beat us! Nothing worse than losing to someone who makes winning look so dang easy. In the end we barely held him off, and it ended up a three-way tie, just under 60,000 feet each in six hours. It was an awesome accomplishment in particular for Mike, who has Parkinson's but can still rip it down a mountain with the best of them

A few days after we won the vertical challenge, Mike posted the following photo on Facebook with the comment "Kids that's what you call a bone spur. It took many years to grow and it will probably take less than 1 hour of surgery to take it off! Pay attention to hot spots in your ski boots."

Whoa! How the heck did he ski on that thing for six hours straight? As his son Mac explained to me in a text, "We Heffernans are some tough sumbitches."

But back to Ski to Defeat ALS. This year's event was a smashing success and a first-rate party. Great camaraderie, good people, and an excellent opportunity to show some love for folks living with this brutal disease. Big thanks to everyone who donated, participated, and made it happen. Fundraising is open through May 1, so there is still time to donate if you would like to help out a good cause.

Here's a gallery of images from Ski to Defeat ALs 2016 courtesy of first-rate mountain photographer Randy Boverman:

Ken Feldhaus and volunteers from Oregon Adaptive Sports. Photos by Randy Boverman