Supreme Challenge: Snowbird to Provo -- in 400 grueling miles

Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2002

SNOWBIRD, Utah (AP) -- Sometime during the evening hours of Aug. 16, 30 teams will be brought together and given a map, a compass and a heartfelt ''good luck'' -- and they'll need it -- and then sent off to bed to dream of jagged rocks, ice-cold water, sheer cliffs and unseen rabbit holes.

Up to this point the only thing they knew was that they were entered in an extreme endurance race and that it would start from the Little Cottonwood Canyon resort in the wee hours the following day.

The 400-mile route was kept secret, as was the order of their ordeals. Would they start out running, climbing, biking, rappelling, paddling or climbing a cliff?

They also knew ahead of time that the race would end in Provo -- some 30 miles away as the eagles fly. They will, however, be taking the long way -- some 400 miles.

The event is the sixth annual Four Winds USA Supreme Adventure Race. At this point, there are 30 teams entered. Unlike other extreme races that require five-member teams, this one is open to four- and two-person teams.

There are also a couple of smaller differences from other events.

For one, teams must start and finish together. Stragglers can disqualify a team.

And, for another, every piece of the so-called extreme sport equipment will be involved. Competitors will have to ride a horse and a mountain bike, paddle a kayak, rappel a cliff and, of course, run, walk and jog until their feet are blistered toe to heel.

They will also be required to read a map -- well.

''We don't let the competitors know about the course ahead of time because we don't want them to be out scouting ... looking for easy ways or shortcuts,'' said Gail Matsunaga, heading communications for Four Winds.

''We give them the course the night before and then send them on their way. It's all part of the challenge.''

This is not the first major adventure race in Utah. In 1995, Mark Burnett introduced the world to the Eco Challenge here in Utah. The race started near an old gravel pit south of Price and ended at Bullfrog Marina on Lake Powell.

For the Eco race, competitors from around the world started out on horseback, switched to running and then to mountain biking. It finished with a rappel down Dark Canyon and a 50-mile paddle on Lake Powell.

Previous Four Winds races have been held in Colorado, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.

The one big difference about this race, says Matsunaga, is that the course is laid out in such a way that spectators are able to intercept and watch the athletes as they pass by.

A lot of planning has gone into this race, said Jeff Robbins, president/CEO of the Utah Sports Commission.

What this race does, he added, ''is that it continues to help diversify the Utah sports industry and brings a new sporting event to the state.''

Snowbird's natural beauty and variety of trails, said Laura Cappel, director of conferences and events at the resort, made it an ideal starting point.

Others involved in the organization of the race include Utah County, U.S. National Forest Service, Utah Division of Parks and Recreation and Provo.

The race is expected to take between seven and nine days to complete. That said, the winning team will have to average around 60 miles per day over Utah's rugged terrain and lakes to finish in a week.

The direction, course and methods of movement, however, won't be told until the 16th. Until then it's a secret.

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