Last Skier Standing
Brittni Gorman is a community builder with an interest in connection and storytelling that has taken shape professionally as the producer of a documentary film company. Based in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, her pursuits have grown from 50k trail races to multi-day endurance events involving trail running, mountain biking, ice and rocking climbing, and ski mountaineering. She's recently completed the Last Skier Standing endurance ski race, which is wild enough event to chase her down for a chat.
Last Skier Standing is certainly an unconventional event. Tell us about the basic rules, please?
Every hour, on the hour participants skin a lap to the summit of Black Mountain in Jackson, NH and ski down for as many laps/hours as they can endure. Each lap is 1K feet of vert and 1.3 miles long so the stacking happens quite quickly. Last year, the inaugural event set a high bar of 14 hours for the last female standing and 34 hours for the last male. This year there were incredible performances all around with four women placing in the final top ten! The last woman completed 33 laps while the men battled it out to lap 62! That’s twice the vertical of Everest.
Congratulations on a top ten overall! What were your goals going into the 2021 event?
In 2020, I went into the event with a goal of reaching sunrise and bonked hard after 8pm and managed only 13 laps. This year, my goal was 24 hours and I ended up with 28 laps! Night time temperatures were significantly warmer this year which played a huge factor in success. With several endurance events under my belt since the 2020 event, as well as many life lessons, my fueling, nutrition, and strategy had changed significantly.
This race sounds so basic and yet so challenging. What’s the longest stint of sleep you got in that period?
Does closing my eyes for 10 minutes count as sleep? Because that happened a couple times throughout the night however I don’t think there was much sleeping involved. The UnTapped Coffee Infused Syrup packets were my SAVING GRACE during those dark hours before sunrise, providing a caffeine boost without upsetting my stomach. Sleep deprivation is certainly one of the more challenging aspects to multi-day endurance efforts so managing that along with nutrition and weather takes time and practice of which I am still learning.
"The more time we spend in those uncomfortable places the more familiar they become allowing us to be less fearful of the discomfort."
You’re no rookie to endurance races and finding success at them! You’re the current title holder to the Vermont Super 8. What’s the format of that event and how’d it go for you last fall?
The Vermont Super 8 is a rugged 640-ish mile route starting in Montpelier with a North Lobe (260 miles) and South Lobe (380 miles) extending to all four borders of the state. Folks choose between the northern or southern route with a select few rowdy adventurers opting for the full figure 8! I chose the full 8 and a multitude of unknowns. My goal here was to finish the course and after 8.5 days of spooky night rides, pretty pastel mornings, a couple days of rain, one bivy sac and more hike-a-bikes than I ever thought possible, the perseverance paid off and I was the first finisher of 2020. With longer endurance events you just never know what is going to present itself on the course and who is going to drop because of fatigue, gear, weather, or some other unforeseen situation. The only thing you can control is how you manage your own race and decision making.
As grueling as these endurance events are on our bodies and minds, I find value in testing the threshold of what we can accomplish. The lessons learned when we are uncomfortable become applicable to other aspects of our life through relationships, careers, decision making, and other life pursuits. There is always more to learn than we ever think.
Obviously that wasn’t too over the top since you’re interested in going back. What does 2021 look like for your Super 8 pursuits?
This year will look a bit different for me since I will actually be behind the camera filming the event! As a producer for a documentary film company, I jumped on the idea of creating a film around the Vermont Super 8 in hopes of shining a light on the bikepacking community and the culture that it creates. In my experience, bike people are good people and specifically with bikepackers, anyone can fit into this sport. From the pointy riders who push their threshold going for the FKT or the folks who just love being outside, bikepacking offers a unique connection to landscapes and communities.
Be it on the ski slopes or the middle of the Vermont woods, you don’t have the luxury of sitting down to a traditional meal. What’s your fueling strategy in these ultra distance events?
A great question, and one that seems to be continually evolving! My daily diet is focused on clean eating, whole foods, and Ayurvedic practices so bringing a simplified menu to the course has its challenges. I think the key here is consistency. Finding a balanced ratio of sugar, carbs, fat, and protein that keep your body and brain from either spiking or crashing is key. Several months before Last Skier Standing I eliminated coffee, sugars, and alcohol which would spike my metabolic or glycemic index so when it came time for race day, a small amount would hopefully have a much larger impact on my energy and being able to work through the fatigue.
Note: maple syrup is unique in sports nutrition with its low glycemic rating of 54. Industry standards, brown rice syrup, maltodextrin, and glucose syrup are all high on the glycemic index.
What’s your perspective on events in general and going into the future amid the global pandemic? Is there a trend towards these adventures that are inherently socially distanced or is this just a trend that we have to contend with now?
To me, this is an opportunity to be creative and ask the questions that allow us to dig deeper in understanding why we choose to compete in the first place. For me, it becomes less about the expected accomplishment and more about the journey as a whole– how we prepare and how we deal with adversity in the moment. Those are the experiences that stick with us as we get back to our life off the course. Navigating the pandemic is similar to how we navigate an endurance event– the unknowns are endless no matter how well we prepare. Yes, I think the structure of these events will stick around as they allow folks to create their own experience while participating in the camaraderie of the community.
Cycling photo credit: @vermontbikepackers