By Cowboy State Daily
An unusual race that sees competitors — often in costume — ski, bike, run and float more than 34 miles from the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort to a spot south of Jackson is being held for the 44th time this weekend.
Jackson’s famous “Pole, Pedal, Paddle” contest will be held Saturday, drawing more than 200 competitors including both serious and not-so-serious racers.
“We’ve got everybody on the spectrum,” said Jeff Moran, chief marketing officer for the Jackson Hole Ski & Snowboard Club, the organizer of the annual race. “So we get a good mix of people doing all five legs trying to go as fast as they can, then a group of people who do it just for fun. It’s both a fundraiser and a fun-raiser.”
The race is a fundraiser for the JHSSC, which supports various skiing programs for Jackson’s youth. Last year, it raised more than $45,000 for such programs.
The race will begin this year at 8 a.m. Saturday with a giant slalom run of more than 2 miles from the top of the resort’s new Teton Lift to the Village Commons at Teton Village. From there, racers will run 1.2 miles to the Shooting Star Golf Course, where a 4-mile groomed cross-country skiing track will be waiting for them.
After the cross-country skiing, racers will take to bicycles for an 18-mile ride to the Snake River, where they will paddle for 9 miles to the finish line at Astoria Hot Springs Park for an awards presentation and celebration.
Competitive racers finish the path in a little more than two hours, while those more interested in fun may take five to six hours, Moran said.“There are people who just make a day of it,” he said. “People who do it on tandem bikes. Some people have big party barges. There are a lot of people who make it a huge celebration.”
There are two divisions for the race, one for competitive racers and another for “fun” racers. Racers can compete individually or in teams for ether division.
Racers in the “fun” division often wear costumes, such as the “Golden Girls” team Moran said competed last year using canes and walkers. Boats seen in the fun division have included a double-decker raft, complete with sound system.
Moran said in recent years, a pink theme has surfaced in some of the costumes in honor of Karen Oatey, a competitor who died during the race in 2015. The race has been officially named the “Karen Oatey Pole, Pedal, Paddle” in her memory.
This year’s awards ceremony will feature a special event — groundbreaking for the restoration of the Astoria Hot Springs Park. The Astoria Park Conservancy has raised $6 million to restore the park that was closed in 1999.
The most popular stretch of the race for viewing is along the Snake River and at the finish line, Moran said.
“Most people tend to congregate at the awards ceremony at the finish line,” he said. “The big thing about the awards ceremony is it is open to everybody.”