Next weekend, a lot of people will be running up Mt. Ellen. On Saturday, September 13, Sugarbush Resort will play host to its first O2X Summit Challenge, an obstacle race that traverses its way to the top of the mountain.
"We're hoping to get a lot of top athletes" to come out to compete in the summit challenge, O2X cofounder Adam La Reau said, explaining that many Navy Seals in training have already registered for the race, as has the entire Harvard University men's ice hockey team. But you don't have to be a top athlete to compete, La Reau said.
One Wednesday afternoon a few weeks ago when La Reau and cofounder Paul McCullough were walking the mountain to scope out terrain, they ran into a few Valley residents hiking up Mt. Ellen in their free time, including two moms carrying small kids in backpacks.
"They're the type of people who we want signing up" for the O2X Summit Challenge, La Reau said. The race will be challenging, he said, but anyone between the ages of 10 and 60 who is active in the outdoors would have fun competing, La Reau explained, and "I would hope that people from the local community come out."
In the O2X Summit Challenge, participants can choose between two courses. The "single diamond" route is 4.1 miles long and gains about 1,500 feet in elevation. The "double diamond" route is 5 miles long and gains about 2,500 feet in elevation. The single diamond finishes at the base of the Summit Quad and the double diamond finishes at the top of the chairlift.
Unlike adventure races in which participants rely on orienteering skills to find their way, both courses in the O2X Summit Challenge will be clearly marked, La Reau and McCullough said. And unlike adventure races that include manmade obstacles like mud pits, all of the obstacles on both Mt. Ellen courses were already there to begin with, including streams, rocks and fallen trees.
"We're trying to find natural terrain that's going to be challenging," La Reau said, explaining that very little of the course is on ski trails. Instead, it winds through the woods between the wide-open swaths, so while those who frequent Mt. Ellen in the wintertime and are familiar with its terrain could have an advantage in the O2X Summit Challenge, the race organizers plan to take people to parts of the mountain they've never seen before.
Meanwhile, at the base of Mt. Ellen there'll be a party. In addition to the race, the O2X Summit Challenge includes a festival that will be open to the public free of charge. The Friday night before the race, the mountain will host local food and drink vendors as well as nonprofit organizations, camping, live music and a bonfire.
For more information about the O2X Summit Challenge or to register for the race, visit o2x.com.