NEK native Jesse Holden is combining his passions for endurance events, community, and the Lyndon Outing Club (LOC).
The 38-year-old St. Johnsbury Academy teacher will be hosting a “Six-Hour Uphill Bonanza” at the non-profit ski area on Saturday, March 13. Participants (individuals or team) will skin or snowshoe up the hill and then ski or hike back down as many times as possible (or as desired) between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
All proceeds from the event will go directly to the LOC.
Holden, an ultrarunner who watched many of his races be canceled over the past year due to the pandemic, first planned his own personal endurance race and fundraiser in December, the Caledonian previously reported.
On Dec. 19, Holden and friend Jesse Dimick ran up and down Mt. Pisgah as many times as possible in twelve hours. The event raised $6,000 for NEK non-profit Umbrella.
The fundraiser’s success got Holden thinking about how to share what he loves with the wider community.
“I was skinning up the [Lyndon] Outing Club by myself and the idea just popped into my head,” he said on Monday. “It’s such a cool mountain and it’s been a part of my life since I was born. This is a win-win doing what I love plus raising awareness, money, and hopefully just bringing people together!”
Holden says that he knows the low-cost ski hill has struggled in years past, though usage has been booming this year.
On March 13, one skin up/ski down will be about a mile and 500 vertical feet.
Graphics for the upcoming event were designed by Academy students.
Holden contacted his friend, fellow Academy teacher Alex Shea, to ask if his digital design students would be interested in coming up with logos.
“He was all about it,” said Holden. “If these kids are going to get a job in that world, these are things that they could potentially be doing. To be able to collaborate with them is really cool.”
He plans to make the graphics into stickers and swag for the event.
Holden, who also runs the Academy’s Outing Club, wants the Uphill Bonanza to be accessible for people of all backgrounds.
“I want the events I put on to have a really warm and inviting atmosphere,” he said. “Just come and do your best. The aim of this is not a competition, it’s to be around each other safely and raise money.”
While there will be prizes and Holden expects some healthy competition, he mainly wants people to have fun and maybe try something new.
“I feel like people think [endurance events] are so unattainable without having tried anything like it,” he said. “Your mind is so strong and you can do so much more than you think you can do. There is so much growth to be had in trying new things and stretching our comfort zone.”
Holden and event volunteers will bring the stoke and a supportive atmosphere.
“You can even do just two or three laps and take a long break in-between and just have a good time,” Holden emphasized.
The event will include music, food, and plenty of cheering, and is sponsored by local shops and organizations.
Though Holden was initially a bit hesitant about holding an event during a pandemic, he has done a lot of thinking and reading about how to make an event safe and successful.
“For me, the biggest thing is to be as transparent about safety protocols and what’s happening at the event as humanly possible,” he said. “I really want to make sure people feel comfortable. I’ve read some about some nightmare races that promised all these safety protocols and didn’t deliver.”
Volunteers and participants will be required to wear masks except when traveling up and down the hill. Aid stations will have single-serve portions of snacks and the only indoor facilities will be the bathroom.
“With the nature of the event, it’s not like you’re going to have people right next to each other unless you’re doing it together in the same household,” he said. “It’s winter, so people are bundled up and will be wanting to wear masks anyway … you can always pull up your buff.”
Due to the pandemic, participants are asked to be Vermont residents or to have been in Vermont for at least two weeks prior to the event.
Holden acknowledges that the small mountain relies on all-natural snow and that mid-March is “definitely teetering on the edge of having a lot of snow on the hill.”
“We never know what the weather in the NEK is going to throw at us and, if for some reason there is just not enough snow to safely ski down, the event will go on just as a hiking challenge,” he writes on the event website. “If this past year has taught us anything it is how to adapt on the fly.”
However, Holden is planning for snow. He says that for those curious about skiing and skinning, the event would be a great place to get some exposure to the sport.
Holden is working on getting some demo gear for people to try at the event.
The St. Johnsbury resident hopes the Uphill Bonanza will not be the only community event he hosts.
“I have been participating in and helping with endurance events for the past ten years,” he writes on the LOC’s website. “The participants’ and volunteers’ positivity are unmatched in any other venue I have been in.”
If all goes well, Holden hopes to start an organization called NEK Endurance that would host a few different events per year.
Event details can be found at buytickets.at/nekendurance. Tickets (group or individual) are $40.
Questions can be emailed to Holden at firstname.lastname@example.org