What goes up at Canaan Valley Resort State Park must always come down.
written by Rob Stull—2020 “biggest shizer” award winner in the Sunrise Scramble
photos by Hannah Snyder
If it was easy, it would be called downhill skiing. You’ll need that reminder about a third of the way through the Sunrise Scramble Uphill Fun Ski Race. Uphill ski race? Yep. It is an annual fundraising event held at Canaan Valley Resort State Park in Davis that promotes being outside—to play, for your health, for your community—while offering an unusual ski challenge at one of the state’s premier parks.
The Canaan Valley State Park Foundation, which hosts the race, had several basic goals for the inaugural event in 2020: to raise funds for recreation and park preservation projects, to bring awareness to cross-country skiing in the park, and to offer the community tremendous fun. Heading into its third year, the race is rising in popularity in the small mountain community. In 2020, 60 racers from six states scrambled nearly 800 vertical feet up the slopes of Canaan Valley Ski Area, raising more than $1,700 for the foundation. For the second annual race in 2021, 88 racers, from six states and the District of Columbia, charged up what are normally the park’s downhill ski trails early on the morning of March 7 and raised more than $2,500 for the foundation.
Each skier comes with their own goals, their own pace, and their own gear of choice and performs in one of three categories: skins, scales, or skates. The category determines the type of cross-country skis the skier will use. Skins are a strip of material you attach to the bottom of your skis to gain uphill traction. Originally made from animal skin, the technology has changed over the years so that now most “skins” are made from a synthetic material. The scales division is for skis that have traction built into the bottom of the ski. Imagine running your hand along the side of a fish. In one direction the fish feels smooth but, when you reverse direction, it’s rough. Similarly, when you slide downhill on these skis it’s smooth, but once you turn to travel uphill, the skis’ scales give traction. The third category, skating skis, are a completely different animal—picture a duck gliding across the snow, using motion similar to an ice skater.
What goes up must come down, and this couldn’t be more true than at the Sunrise Scramble. Cross country skis tend to be narrow with a softer edge and not necessarily designed to bomb down alpine slopes. So, even though you may think you have the heart, lungs, and legs to climb uphill, are you certain you have what it takes to make it down East Coast ski slopes on skinny skis?
Based on the foundation’s award choices, it’s clear some folks weren’t quite up to the challenge. In addition to category and age group awards, superlative awards are given for “Best Power Wedge” and “Best Crash.” Competitors tend to have two approaches to getting down the mountain—either point ’em straight and go, or try to apply the brakes with the old-fashioned pizza wedge.
Mason Powell, a 15-year-old Canaan Valley resident, sums up the event best. “I love the uphill race because it is the perfect combination of uphill and downhill Nordic skiing techniques that make this area so special to me,” he says. “I think it is so important because it’s the only chance I get to compete using those skills. The friendly competition with my community makes it that much more amazing.”
Mark your calendars for the next Sunrise Scramble. The third annual race will take place on Sunday, March 6, 2022. I’m in for sure, if for no other reason than to go back out and look for part of the lung I lost during the 2021 event.