VertFest Part 1: The Monika Johnson Memorial Randonee Rally

The event today was everything expected, and just about everything hoped for. The snow was fluffy and stable, the sky blue. The turnout was the largest ever for a randonee race in the Pacific Northwest. I’m particularly thrilled about that, as it will help insure that the event continues after last year’s near miss. I ran into many friends and made some new ones. The backcountry ski community is full of really great people.

And of course, today we were mourning the loss of one of those great people. Monika was a fierce competitor, strong and fast, yet always friendly and one of the happiest people I’ve met climbing or skiing. In Monika’s memory, many of us today raced with toy cats strapped to our packs, just like Snow Kitty, her companion on every ski trip. Monika’s boyfriend raced with an enormous stuffed lion.

As expected, the awards ceremony was tearful for about everyone in the room. There it was announced that the race and future editions were renamed. VertFest will continue to be the weekend backcountry skiing festival. The race itself is now the Monika Johnson Memorial Randonee Rally.

Fitting, as I believe she won the women’s race division every single time she entered, smiling and cheering the rest of us all the while.

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