The Hog that wasn’t
By Steve Godfrey
Feb. 27, 2012
Photo by Steve Godfrey
Photo by Steve Godfrey
The day started like any other Hog Loppet day for my wife, Irene, and me. Early get-up, quick shower and breakfast, and out the door by 6:00 to make the 6:30 bus at Wenatchee’s Performing Arts Center parking lot. We were in the second bus, and we pulled out at 6:33. So far, so good.
The fresh snow and ice on the upper stretches of Squilchuck Road could have been dicey for a big bus, but we lucked out and fell in behind a road grader spreading sand. We passed one of the not so fortunate Leavenworth buses as it was spinning its wheels, trying to get some traction on the ice to make it up to the Mission Ridge parking lot. Fortunately, it eventually spun its way up to the sanded section of the road and made it to the top, but I suspect the anxious skiers inside were sweating a bit.
We were the second bus to arrive in the parking lot, and we filed out, pulled our skies from the belly of the bus, and headed up to the lodge. The temperature was fairly mild for this time of the year, but the wind was blowing enough to be a concern. Little did we know how much of an issue it would become.
All buses arrived safely, and the lodge soon became packed with 500+ eager skiers. We picked up our event packets, including our lift ticket, Hog t-shirt and bib number, complete with four safety pins to attach it to our coat or backpack.
Skiers milled around the lodge preparing for the fun annual ski trek. Some were enjoying breakfast from the grill while most were figuring out what clothes to wear to best brave the frigid high-speed quad chairlift ride to the top of Mission Ridge, where the skiing part of the 30 kilometer trek actually begins.
But this day, Mother Nature had other plans. She buffeted the high ridge with sustained 45 mile-per-hour winds, and blasted it while we were in the lodge with gusts of 80 and 89 miles-per-hour.
Mission Ridge doesn’t operate the high speed quad chairlift in high winds for obvious safety reasons.
The on-site event organizers, staff of the Leavenworth Winter Sports Club, discussed potential options, but in the end made the tough but responsible decision to cancel the event. The buses were called back, and disappointed skiers filed down from the lodge and loaded their gear for a ride back to Wenatchee or Leavenworth.
It was tough for many Hoggers – especially those planning to do the event for the very first time – to go through all the preparation and expense only to be denied by the weather when it was “go” time. I was impressed that everyone seemed to accept the reality of the situation.
Many, like us, decided to go for a last minute Plan B, in the form of Lake Wenatchee’s Nason Ridge.
By the time we arrived at the Kahler Glen parking lot, it was already starting to fill up. We thought it might be displaced Hoggers anxious to satisfy the urge for a nice long ski trek, and we were right.
As we took off on our skis, we started running into skiers who still had their Hog numbers attached to their backpacks. Throughout the 23 kilometer ski up to the top of Nason Ridge and back, we encountered a surprisingly high number of Hoggers skiing in both directions.
In fact, it felt almost like the real Hog, minus the great aid stations along the route.
We estimated around 100 Hoggers skied Nason Ridge Saturday afternoon. That’s around 20 percent of the skiers who signed up for the Hog.
Facebook entries Saturday night by the Nason Ridge Hoggers referred to the substitute ski as “Hog Loppet West” and the “Not Loppet”.
Thanks to the Leavenworth Winter Sports Club for making the correct decision to cancel the Hog Loppet in the name of skier safety. And thanks to the grooming staff at Kahler Glen/Nason Ridge for providing a suitable alternative to the highly anticipated event.