#OmniGames: Day 1

Photo courtesy 100 Peaks
Photo courtesy 100 Peaks

After Season 4 headed into downtown Park City, we rendezvoused with the #omniten alumni at the No Name Saloon. Circulating around the room, I found myself drawn into conversation after conversation in the loud room—the next morning, my voice was a little hoarse! The amount of flannel the #omniten was rocking was quite amazing. There was a concert happening out on the streets but many of us were having way too much fun hanging out with our fellow #omniten. Going with the flow, the party moved upstairs to the outdoor patio where it was much easier to talk. I discussed it before but getting to know all these lovely people really made my trip. I’ve heard stories that back at the hotel the party raged on but I chose to hit up the hot tub with the group briefly before before heading to bed. The mystery games were slated to begin in the morning and I wanted to be up for anything that might be thrown my way.

Omniten at No Name Saloon

In the morning, the #omniten were in for one more treat before the #omnigames were revealed. Columbia has been developing a down-synthetic hybrid jacket called “The Turbo Down,” due to hit the market this fall. As if we were not already fully outfitted in Columbia gear, each one of us received a prototype of the jacket!

After the Turbo Down excitement, it was finally time to load up and head out for for the #omnigames. We’d been told to dress as if we were going skiing minus the ski boots but that still didn’t give too much away about what we’d actually be doing. As we pulled onto a snow covered road there were parts of me that were hoping for some serious cross-country snowshoeing—I thought that was something I might be able to eek out an advantage in! Alas, it was not but outside the ranch building there were sled dogs and snowmobiles—our first real hints to what might await us.

Photo courtesy AnneCarneyPhotography.com
Photo courtesy AnneCarneyPhotography.com

As it turned out we were competing in all manner of outdoor activities. As Daniel read through the list and briefly explained each one, I have to admit to only half listening. The impending competition had me pumped up, nervous, and ready to get this show on the road. I heard “shooting,” “dog sledding,” “fire,” “avalanche beacon,” “skiing,” “ropes course,” “free fall,” “shelter,” and “Charles Dickens”: thoughts about strategy, strong points, and weaknesses began flowing. I knew I could start a fire with matches but I had a sneaking suspicion that they wouldn’t be part of our supplies. I felt relatively confident about all the other events but I was surrounded by tough competitors and really felt like this was anyone’s game.

Next it was announced that we’d be competing in teams of two: one winter #omniten and one summer to a team. I was deep in thought when Daniel called me up to draw a teammate. I drew Justin Lukasavige. Although he and I followed each other on Twitter, we hadn’t spoken much before the games. Amped up on #omnigames, I think the first thing I asked him was, “Can you make a fire?” Taking everything in stride, Justin told me he could and we sat down for the announcement of the #omnigames prize.

A trip to JORDAN.

The room of #omniten was palpably buzzing with the news. Thankfully, it was finally time to get down to having fun in the snow. Justin and I started our day with dog sledding. I love dogs and it was immediately obvious that these dogs love pulling that sled. They had so much energy yipping, barking, and leaping while waiting for their turn to be tied to the sled. (Interestingly, when I got home Sprocket had developed an odd habit of barking like a sled dog while running next to the quad…) Riding with Racer and his team was an experience to remember.

Photo courtesy WildernessDave.com
Photo courtesy WildernessDave.com

Unloading from the sled, Justin and I took the quiz associated with dog sledding and headed inside to get ready for snowmobiling. There was a little part of me that was sort of sad that riding the snowmobiles themselves wasn’t scored although that was probably for the best since the last time I was on a snowmobile I “ghost rode” it off the path… Instead, we were to be scored on archery.

Photo courtesy WildernessDave.com
Photo courtesy WildernessDave.com

To be quite honest when they said “shooting” in the #omnigames intro, I was picturing shooting a .22 or something à la biathlon and got way excited. I haven’t shot a bow and arrow since I was twelve but was determined to do well. After hitting the first shot I took a deep breath and hit the next. I could hear cheering for Justin beside me: we were doing well! Katie started calling me Katniss and I must admit comparison to an awesome fictional character made me smile a little bit—especially in a competition that absolutely demanded comparisons to The Hunger Games.

Next it was off to build a shelter. Teams were given twenty minutes to create a shelter with a tarp, four pieces of paracord, two nice straight aspen poles, and a snow shovel. Justin and I agreed that the best way to approach this was to keep it nice and low out of the wind, as small as possible to conserve body heat, and to face it out of the prevailing wind. In about ten minutes we had a shelter we were pretty happy with so we spent the rest of our time adding additional snow insulation, even going so far as to build a “snow berm” near the entrance. It wound up looking like a tarp on the ground but it would totally work in a pinch!

#omniteam2 shelter

Since Justin and I were proving to be quite a duo, a little bit of an edge had been taken off the fire building challenge. Given wood, a magnesium fire starter, and some newspaper, we got to work. Justin did a fantastic job manning the fire starter while I broke off the thin ends of the wood and held the BBQ lid to keep our work area dry. After singeing some holes in the paper without attaining fire, I started to get nervous. Before panic set in, we had flame! Without discussion, Justin and I morphed into action. We were judiciously adding small pieces of wood and got the fire large enough to put the grate and pot of water on quickly. We took turns being human billows to get the fire roaring; deciding if a little water is good, a lot is better so we built the fire up around the pot. As the clock ticked, bubbles began to form and our billows efforts continued. Soon, to my immense delight and relief, we had a rolling boil.

Building a fire

Headed back to the warmth to get some lunch, I got the feeling something special was happening. From the stories circulating around us, there were plenty of groups that didn’t get fire and a handful more that didn’t get a rolling boil—we’d done that plus hit our archery targets, built a passable shelter, and rocked the dog sled quiz all while having a blast.

Wolfing down lunch, I was anxious to get out for the final challenge of the day: finding an avalanche beacon. Justin had some experience using a beacon and I’d attended an avalanche awareness course so I knew that as long as we trusted the beacon, we couldn’t go too wrong. Sure enough, finding the beacon was a matter of confidently doing what we needed to do. #omniteam2 had completed Day 1 of #omnigames competition in style!