The most heinous scorpion or ragdoll is nothing in comparison to the daily reality of living without access to clean drinking water. Snowboarding in July is the epitome of privilege, and the Rat Race turns this into charity, having raised $150,000 over its seven-summer run and more than $30,000 this year alone.
Despite the benevolence of its larger intent, the Rat Race is devoid of the assumed benignity of a banked slalom course. At first glance, the moto-style whoops that have become the event's marquee feature may look tame. The airtime is minimal, but miscalculation has been known to induce injury--though not nearly as many as at its sister event. And it's not that you have to gap these whoops; you just won't put down a low time if you don't. Rat Racers this year faced these foreboding bumps in the course's beginning, middle, and end.
By definition there's a difference between excitement and anxiety, and the Rat Race track isn't one I've ever felt excited to drop into. Anxious, yes. But the satisfaction elicited after making it through in one piece is greater than that I've experienced at the bottom of a course comprised solely of flowing berms.
The real reward for those in attendance, however, comes in the form of friends. Mention of community is as tired a descriptor for the benefits of a banked slalom as stylish is for a well-executed method. But as much as Rat Race is an opportunity to snowboard in the summer, it's the chance to connect with others equally committed to this activity, in a place that evokes strong memories for the majority of snowboarding's most dedicated personalities.
The running order--or lack thereof--in the pro division is an eclectic list of some of the best riders in the world, while the unsponsored category is peppered with names who take their photos, write their checks, and sell their boards, alongside snowboarders who took the day off from an entirely unrelated 9-5 to risk their safety in the name of charity.
After the last rider flew across the finish, a crowd made its way through the butterfly cloud and down to the Timberline parking lot, where the group gathered for an awards ceremony with a tone that departed from the wry rhetoric of years past. Bryan Fox and Austin Smith discussed the recent passing of both Curtis Ciszek's father and Austin’s, explaining these occurrences’ role in the graphic inspiration on the snowboards awarded to podium finishers and the notion that this event has, from its inception, been something that the tightknit crew who’s made it possible for seven summers has been able to share with their families. In that moment the magnitude of the Rat Race was apparent.
No amount of absurd side bets, heckling, or sarcasm can detract from the positive impact that the Rat Race has on our community and most importantly those whose existence is much less charmed than our own.