The Underdogs: A Guide to Surviving the Columbia Sportswear Omnigames

Here’s the thing: No matter how many rocks I climb, mountains I camp atop, landscapes I journey to – I will always be a Florida girl at heart. I’ve tried to shake it, but I just can’t seem to escape my Sunshine State roots. So when Columbia Sportswear revealed that they would be sending me (and 40 other inspiring adventurers) to Park City for a weekend of competitive snow sports, I knew I was in for a challenging adventure.

The #omnigames wasn’t just a challenge against my fellow #omniten – it was a challenge I had to fight against myself and my personal limits.

Rebecca and I geared up for the ropes course at the Utah Olympic Park.

I’m a total tank-top and cut-off shorts kind of gal. I do best when the sun is warm on my face and I can spend the entire day outdoors without a single shiver. Can y’all picture me getting hardcore while bundled up in ski equipment and more thermal layers than I could count? Here’s a little help with the visuals:

Upon arriving in Utah, a dusting of snow  accumulated on my plane as we taxied into the terminal. This should have been my first clue that I was in over my head. I ran around outside while we loaded up the shuttles, and kept my face pressed against the glass watching the flurries fall as we make the trek to Park City. It was beautiful.

I awoke on the first morning of the Omnigames to quite a sight: snow was gusting through our lodge with a newfound ferociousness that turned my “oh boy, snow, snow, snow!” into “uh-oh, better put my big girl boots on.” The beauty of the frozen landscape was suddenly quite intimidating. So, how does a totally unprepared, absolutely out of her element lady react when thrown into a land of snowstorms and ski slopes?

Here’s my guide to surviving the Columbia Sportswear Omnigames:

1. Team up with a loyal, adventurous partner.

The teamwork dynamic of the competition was left a mystery until moments before the event began. My team was the first to be created – by drawing two names out of a hat. My partner was Derek Loranger of 100peaks.com, a fellow Trail Sherpa blogger from California. We both met with wide-eyes – I’m one of the youngest, most inexperienced kids in the crew, and he’s much more mature and wise, but as the games progressed, we quickly bonded into a strong team. Our first day’s performance wasn’t exactly impressive – we started day two in last place – but we more than made up for it during ropes course and vertical skiing challenges that bumped us up to 9th place. Derek led our team with a strong show during the skiing portion, and I did my best to keep us both afloat during the ropes adventure. Many high-fives were exchanged, and our spirits remained high through any battle!

My partner and I on the dog sleds at Garff Ranch during the Omnigames.The dog sledding at the Omnigames.

2. Always go forth in the spirit of #TryingStuff.

Y’all, the Omnigames were no joke. You can get an excellent break-down of all the events from Patrick Gensel, but here’s the basic spread of challenges we were faced with: dog-sledding, shooting archery, building snow shelters and primitive fires, maneuvering ropes courses 55 feet in the air, and clocking the most vertical footage in 90 minutes. The ropes course is the only activity I knew I would dominate, so the rest of the Omnigames were spent just going for it. Did I shoot a single arrow that hit the target? Absolutely not, but I adored the experience of pulling my bow back and feeling the arrow zip past my fingers into the air. Did I make a fire while the snow was blowing sideways? Negative – but I’m redoing the challenge this weekend while camping! While going forth with the spirit of adventure, you have to be comfortable with the idea of failure, and always persevere with the determination to keep trying stuff.

3. Never give up.

Just before being split up into teams, Columbia Sportswear revealed what the prize of the Omnigames would be: the top five teams would form the new Omniten season and embark on a journey to Jordan in spring to explore the country while documenting the adventure. After feeling pretty decent about our first day’s events, my partner and I were slightly taken aback when the scores were read after the first morning and we came in dead last place – but that just provided extra fuel for our fire. We regrouped, amped up the determination, and rallied our hardest during the final challenges. The result? Our team bumped all the way up to 8th place, meaning that our chances of making it to Jordan were still alive. Giving up is never a good choice – you always have to keep charging forward and trying you hardest (even if you crash into a snowbank minutes after putting on skis).

4. Get creative.

Keeping it creative was one of the most important things that led to my team’s success during the Omnigames – and we weren’t the only ones kept on our toes. Even the Columbia Sportswear crew had to think outside the box when blizzard conditions forced us to alter the second day’s events (and they rocked it). As an adventurer, you’ve got skills and experience that can help you out in any situation. While building a snow shelter, I turned to my knowledge of knots to help secure our makeshift structure, and my partner dug deep into his past experience with summertime shelters to utilize those skills in a different season. And it worked – I would totally have slept in our shelter for an evening. When it came to the ropes course, I channeled every ounce of climbing know-how to help me balance my way across the obstacles.

Heidi and I on the ropes course at Utah Olympic Park during the Omnigames.

5. Remember what the adventure is really all about.

There’s no denying that every single person competing out in Park City really, really wanted to win a spot on the trip to Jordan – but most of us hardly let that overshadow what was really going on. We were reunited with friends we rarely get to see, sent to play in an unbelievable landscape packed with activities most of us have never experienced, and blessed with the opportunity to do it all while testing new gear. There was plenty of competition, but it was never trumped by pure camaraderie. When Derek and I struggled to get our fire going, opponents Beth and Justin quickly huddled over our grill and tried to help us spark a blaze until time was up. During the ropes course, Kristie and her partner Weston shared tips for making it through each obstacle. At the end of every competition, hugs and high-fives were shared by all. Like any adventure, the bottom line was sharing memories, pushing personal boundaries, and having a good time.

The final event of the Omnigames is still alive and awaiting a victor – it’s called “Charles Dickens,” and it is a challenge to retell the story of our experiences out in Park City. Keep your eyes on the blog for two more posts that highlight stories that go beyond the usual recap, and follow @TheMorningFresh on Instagram for #7DaysofOmniten – a little project that highlights my favorite images and mini-stories from the trip. 

Comments

  1. says

    this was such a fabulous recap and, as a fellow florida girl, i related to feeling a little out of your element! but it was a truly incredible experience and i’m so glad we could share it together. loved meeting you, katie. you truly have a personality that lights up any room!

  2. Justin Lukasavige says

    I like how you called Derek old without using that word. :)

    It was great to watch you guys compete. I loved the teamwork.

    Let me know how that fire challenge goes when you try it again. I also have plans of my own to be more prepared next time I’m asked to do that.

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