Gelandesprung (v): German for a downhill ski jump in the style of Oympic nordic jumping, yet with fixed heels. Quaff (v): to drink rapidly with much vigor The legend of the Gelande Quaff was born back around the time snow was new. On a dark winter evening as the boys huddled for one last round, tipping back cold beers honoring their mastery of the backscratcher into couloirs in tight neon stretchpants, the bar tender slid frosty mugs down the bar to eager hands. It was a normal night until an order was called, the one who ordered got distracted, and the beer slid past only to leap off the end of the bar. Fortunately, stationed at the end of the bar, there stood one lone, alert skier who snatched the beer out of the air, pounded it back and slamming it on the table proclaimed, “Gelandequaffing!!” and the rest was history. As the story goes, a new form of sport drinking was born. It began to catch on in small mountain towns where long winters and poor odds lead to various devices of distraction. Like most new sports, the development of rules and competition formats would follow as well as the kind of innovation that was tracking in freeskiing and snowboarding. And today, after nearly a decade of progression Gelande Quaffing has evolved into a World Championship-level competition. Getting an invite to the said World Champs stands as one of the more coveted mountain town trappings anywhere.
Creating a conduit for local talent to the world stage of sport is nothing new in the Sun Valley area, and with this thought, Mountain Approach and the Cellar Pub created the inaugural Sawtooth Regional Gelande Quaffing Championships with the dream of sending a local team to the World Champs one day. And this dream came to life on the pavers of Ketchum Town Square, kicking off a 4:20pm, conveniently on the eve of the end of the ski season on Baldy, it was destined to be a showdown for the ages. Born of virtue and vice by the guys this would prove to bring out the competitive athletes, both from an on-hill and end-of-bar perspective, for an end-of-the-ski-year salutation which would last the summer months. On the line was that most coveted of invitations, a berth in the 2015 World Championships of Gelande Quaffing in Jackson Hole, the pinnacle of Gelande Quaffing competition. While this was far from the first time Gelande Quaffing had been seen sullying the fine name of the Sun Valley area, it was certainly the biggest, baddest such occurrence with the most on the line ever.
The rules of Gelande Quaffing are fairly simple. Teams of four compete in timed head to head single elimination bracket format for the most cleanly slid, caught and consumed beers. Points are awarded by merit for catching the mug, catching the mug by the handle, performing a trick before catching the mug, and of course, slamming of the mug on the end of the table once quaffed. No slam, no points. The rules state that with each round an extra point trick is added: 360, behind the back, under the leg and so forth until the final wherein it’s a no holds barred freestyle session.
With that said, this was one hotly contested event. As previously mentioned, the chance of winning the berth into the World Champs in Jackson in February is one of those things that you just don’t take lightly. Carrying the weight and the honor of representing Sun Valley and winning the whole enchilada to return home champions, well, that might get you a ticker tape parade in a town like this.
As with most mountain town contests, uniforms/costumes were mandatory. Some serious hitters had shown up to flex their esophagi. The corner of the bar at Grumpy’s was looking confident in matching sweatpants, but suffered a first round trouncing by Smith Optics. PK’s Ski and Sport brought some heat and some tight tees but didn’t last long either. Many thought that the Lee Gilman Builder Monkeys would be the team to take down, as many of their team members appear to train regularly, but alas, it wasn’t to be. Some guys in tight shorts and Power Ranger masks gave it a run for the money, but most people just ran, leaving them out in the cold with several rounds to go. Johnny G’s Subshack also brought some serious game not to mention the Pabst Blue Ribbon Rep team. And of course there was the home team on away turf, Teton Gravity/Jackson Hole who would show impeccable style and decorum, however also fall short of the final.
This was a clash of the titans and through the rounds the tight competition led to more than one tie. Which, according to the rules of Gelande Quaffing, can only be broken in a Quaff-Off, a sudden-death sort of tie breaker. With the roar of the crowd chanting “Quaff Off!, Quaff Off! Quaff Off!” the tension in the arena would mount as fates were sealed in the slide and quaff of a single mug.
What many didn’t expect looking around the team paddock, was that there would be two teams of Quaffers of unlikely pedigree who would silently work their way into the final. Most would assume, and understandably so, that the Gelande Quaff is the territory of the large jock or frat boy, perhaps a strapping cowboy, or athletic ski bum who’s put on a few pounds of cheek meat since dropping out of college and commencing living the dream. However two teams that escaped the spotlight early slid, snatched, tricked and quaffed with a mighty fury that no one saw coming tearing through seasoned bar vets, ski techs, sandwich craftsmen, fuel supply specialists, and construction workers to find themselves planted smack in the middle of the finals. One of them, Sturtevant’s had that suspicious look of over-trained endurance athletes meddling with games of a heftier sort.
Then equally as unlikely it would be a team of full-on lab nerds, “Full Frontal Nerdity”, that must have found their way through college at the bottom of a beer keg, advancing to the final. In addition to their cool, almost cold, calculated approach to the quaff, it was notable that they represented an equal male to female Quaffer ratio, which was the only 1:1 co-ed team in the Regional Champs.
The crowd had grown to encircle the town square 4-6 rows deep in places. Kids climbed trees, people craned their necks stretching for a better view, someone even suggested bleachers next year. This was a sudden arrival of the big leagues to a small town which immediately understood its significance. With hands up as per Quaffing regs, the final rounds began with Sturtevant’s and FFN locked in battle before throngs of screaming fans.
They would battle back and forth, exchanging blows like prize fighters for a full two minutes only to be left in a dead tie. A Quaff off was called and then another, making it a record 10th on the evening. To break the double Quaff Off stalemate, solo one minute sessions would be had. Emerging from over 4 minutes of heated final competition, the judges huddled for one last time. It would be decided that a mano y mano freestyle Best Trick Final would decide who took home the prized schooner mugs and pay-your-own-way tickets to Jackson Hole. Team Full Frontal Nerdity lost the coin toss and would be going first. They collected their wits and performed a flawless Leap Frog to Front Handspring to Quaff that left the judges and fans mesmerized. Sturtevant’s then performed what could best be described as a Point After Beer with Hand Model maneuver. While their trick would go off as planned, clearly the FFN team was the favorite of the crowd as would it be the judges as well.
Full Frontal Nerdity stood in the wings of glory for long enough to concoct what would be one of the most daring freestyle tricks in the sport of Gelande Quaffing to date. With conviction that comes from true-nerdom they walked away victorious.
Pack yer bags, Full Frontal Nerdity, took down some of the heaviest quaffers in Sun Valley and are taking a trip to the World Championships. And so the Sawtooth Regional Gelande Quaffing Championships would go down in history with a first ever champion coming out of the local woodwork of Quaffing talent to represent the Sun Valley area at the World Champs. Thank you to the hard working men and women who pulled this event together and gave us yet another reason to be proud of the place we call home. For those who got schooled, I’m sure you are at home practicing right now for next year. To the champs, congrats on a hard won victory, but don’t get comfortable the next generation is nipping at your heels!