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Skis + Beer = Mountain Fun

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People who live in a ski town have to make their own fun. Living in relative isolation, there are limited offerings when it comes to nightlife, concerts, art or even shopping.

Come March and April, when cabin fever has substantially matured into a full-blown epidemic, everyone starts going a little stir crazy. But that's the time when the most creative, and sometimes ridiculous, events occur. From the grom (grown-up prom) to costumed Mardi gras parties, mountain dwellers have to take it upon themselves to create some needed diversions.

The late-winter mountain race is always a good standby. Basically, take one mountain, layout a challenging yet odd course, combine disciplines and add beer and you've got a race. Places like Bend, Ore. and Jackson Hole, Wyo. have pole, pedal, paddle races which combine Alpine and Nordic skiing, biking, running, some form of water transportation and, in Jackson at least, costumes.

Now it's McCall's turn to start what organizers hope will become an annual tradition.

The Backcountry Brewhaha will lead backcountry skiers and boarders up and down the hills around Brundage Mountain Resort and deposit them in a beer and brats party at the base of the mountain. This style of race has its origins in Europe, but Western mountain towns have made them their own.

Basically, racers will show up at the crack of dawn on Saturday, March 7 in the Brundage Mountain Resort parking lot, where they will sign in and get ready for the race. At exactly 8 a.m., racers will take off from bottom of the Mainstreet run, following an eight-mile course up and down the hillside, gaining and losing roughly 3,200 feet in elevation throughout the race.

Terrain along the course is varied, and a combination of ski and mountaineering skills will be needed to finish. The route weaves in and out of the ski area's boundaries through ungroomed slopes, winding south around the eastern side of the mountain, eventually leading to the parking lot near the Centennial chairlift.

Participants can use their preferred mode of non-motorized snow transportation—Alpine, Nordic or telemark skis or a split board­—but must provide their own skins (which go on the bottom of skis, allowing for an uphill climb) as well as a functioning avalanche beacon, probe, snow shovel, helmet, poles, appropriate clothing and water. Volunteers from the Brundage Ski Patrol and Search and Rescue will be on hand to monitor the course.

There are five checkpoints along the way and the route is flagged with either green or red flags to denote whether skins should be used.

Jeff Halligan, from Gravity Sports and co-organizer of the event said the race is designed to be an introduction to this style of event, but with enough challenge to attract even hard-core backcountry racers.

Besides a sense of accomplishment, the rewards will be found at the end of the race where a celebration will include live music and beer and food from McCall's newest brewery, Salmon River Brewery.

The public is welcome to attend the end party for a "nominal fee" and everyone can buy raffle tickets for the chance to score new skis from Atomic and Black Diamond, as well as other gear and prizes donated by event sponsors.

The event is a fund raiser for the Central Idaho Recreation Coalition, a nonprofit group that promotes non-motorized recreational activities.

Entry fee for the Brewhaha is $30, and Halligan said organizers are hoping for between 30 and 40 racers. Advanced registration is requested and can be done by calling West Mountain Gear and Grind at 208-325-8191. A limited amount of registration will be done the morning of the race, but Halligan warns that all registration must be done before the start of the 7:30 a.m. pre-race meeting. Organizers will be on hand starting at 7 a.m.