For the last 33 years, one event has marked the arrival of spring in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. That is the Pole Pedal Paddle. Like moths to a flame, people flock to this four-leg event in droves.
The Pole Pedal Paddle has both a recreation and race division. There are also subcategories within those two. Teams can consist of four members, two members, co-ed, non co-ed, and many teams in the recreation division opt to wear some very crazy costumes. The race division is where the serious competitors show up and a friendly rivalry takes place.
The first leg is an alpine ski leg. There is a Giant Slalom course set up from the upper mountain (sometimes from the top) to the bottom. As there are hundreds of competitors,the participants are grouped into heats for the start. Each racer places their skis at a start line, and then has to stand back about 25 feet back at another line. As the announcer shouts out the start, those in the heat run to their skis, put them on as quickly as possible, and push off down the course. Keep in mind there can be as many as 10 people to a heat, so there is a lot of jockeying for position while skiing down the course at high speed.
As racers come through the finish, either they tag their teammate, or if doing the race solo, they quickly change into skate ski boots and gear. Then a quick run across the resort parking lot takes them to the start of the 10km cross-country ski leg. Most folks chose to skate ski this portion instead of classic ski. The track is unusual in that it is in the shape of a bucking bronco rider (cowboy on a horse). This is visible from up the upper mountain of the ski area, and makes for a great picture.
After a tiring skate around the track, the racers end up at the start of the Nordic leg, which is now the transition area to the bicycle leg. The biking distance is 19.8 miles. The weather factor comes into play here, as it is just as likely to be a beautiful sunny day as it is to be snowing. There are also some hills involved to add to the challenge.
The final transition takes place at the South Park boat ramp. The Snake River is the location of the final nine miles. Competitors have the choice of using whatever craft they desire to get down the river. You can see a wide variety, from downriver kayaks, to canoes, whitewater kayaks, sea kayaks, rafts, drift boats, and things you wouldn’t believe can even float. I once saw several rafts tied together with a multi-story platform built on top for a disco flotilla like you have never seen.
The Pole Pedal Paddle is a fun event for family and friends alike. Consider entering an event like this in your area!