Peak Series Founder and Professional Skier Julian Carr On Creating the Next Big Race Series

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 The Peak Series will hold its final event for this year on Sunday, August 28th

Julian Carr could see something was missing. A professional skier and avid runner, Carr naturally ended up trail running the peaks he called home, when they weren’t blanketed in snow. During the summertime, Carr made his way up and down the peaks he skied in the winter, and realized there was an opportunity in what he was doing. Carr had a feeling that there were other runners out there like him— runners that wanted a challenging race that wasn’t too long. Something you could accomplish in a single afternoon.

A natural entrepreneur (Carr also founded the brand Discrete), he began to look into more research around the category, and realized two things: one, trail running was one of the fastest growing categories in the outdoor market, and two, there wasn’t a race for people like him: athletes that wanted to mix hiking and running, and outdoor enthusiasts that like to have a good time. Carr says of the races he was attending: “There was no atmosphere. Everyone pretty much waited for their friends to finish, then went home. My friends and I were the only people that pulled our car up, set out chairs, had a beer, rooted people through the finish line.”

Also, every race he looked into was long. “I got online and looked for more trail races that fit my criteria: less than 10 miles, elevation intense, trail races. And I came up with nothing. Everything was 50K, 100 miles, [these] very long races. Or there were lots of mud runs, obstacle course races, etc.” Carr wasn’t looking for a race with gimmicks, he was looking for something fun, that he could participate in with his friends.

After about a year of thinking, Carr stepped up to the plate and created the Peak Series, a set of three races, designed to maximize outdoor enjoyment through the combination of racing and entertainment. The Peak Series is unique in a few ways: the emphasis is on enjoying the race, not necessarily powering through it. There are levels for every racer to participate in. Every event features a vendor village, complete with live music, vendors, and a great scene. It’s also been recognized by many within the action, adventure and outdoor industries—this year, Peak Series is  sponsored by the likes of Gopro, UnderArmour, Gnarly, Spy, Backcountry.com, Protect Our Winters, Grind TV, Skiing Mag, to name just a few.

Julian Carr, creator of the Peak Series

Julian Carr, creator of the Peak Series

Transworld Business caught up with Julian Carr to chat about the Peak Series: his inspiration, goals for the event, and what really makes a race great.

Interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How did your experience competing in action sports influence the way you designed the Peak Series?

As the culture behind bagging peaks emerges, there are some amazing personalities in this space, and the Series is a great place for the continuity to be brought out and really shine. As an athlete, I was involved with the US Freeskiing Series, and I really liked the vibe that series had: some awesome announcers, a great DJ, food, beverages, and a great atmosphere to hang out and enjoy the mountains for everyone, spectator or competitor.

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The Peak Series Race has beginner, expert and pro categories, designed for each level of participant. What sort of runner in general is this race designed to appeal to? Is there a common appeal for all levels of participants?
We’ve seen ages 12-64 compete. The majority of entries are in the beginner/intermediate category, which is ideal. We’re attracting runners, but what I’m most stoked on is that we’re bringing in people like me, in that they don’t quite identify themselves as runners, but they see the series as a good adventure, and that is exactly what it is. We touch on some important cornerstones of the human experience: a perfect combination of agility, lungs, muscles, and grit.

The Peak Series is now in its second year. How many participants did the race begin with, and how have you seen it grow?
Last year, in our first series, we averaged 100 people per race. For the current season we’re averaging 300, so we’re stoked! Things are looking bright for 2017.

We should celebrate going up [mountains] in the summer, as well. They’re still world class mountains and venues that facilitate a fun atmosphere.

Mountain racing is one of the fastest growing segments in the outdoor industry- how does the Peak Series set itself apart?
Peak Series is the only company in the nation offering short distance, max elevation gain, mountain races. Attainable for all ages, all ability levels. We have no gimmicks, no mud, no obstacles, just you and an iconic peak. The formula is simple—it’s who can get up the peak the fastest, and get back down.

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The race takes place at three different ski resorts—Snowbird, Alta, and Deer Valley. What made you choose these resorts in particular to collaborate on this event?
I’ve been skiing down these mountains all winter, and they’re world class mountains. Millions of people come from all over the world to ski there. We should celebrate going up [mountains] in the summer, as well. They’re still world class mountains and venues that facilitate a fun atmosphere.

Tell me a little bit about the events so far for 2016. What have been the highlights?
For me, it boils down to seeing people have so much fun and feeling the genuine sense of happiness in the finish area. It’s hard to put the feelings into words, but every single person is grinning from ear to ear, with pure stoke. One thing that crossed my mind was, “Man, you can’t buy this kind of happiness.” It makes me proud to bring more people into the space of conquering peaks, taking in amazing views, and high-fiving everyone in the finish area.

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What can we look forward to for the final race of this year's series?
I just want to have a great event. People know they will be confronted with their fitness quickly, and pushed to the full capacity of their abilities. It promises great views, and a great summit. It will kick your ass, but it only lasts 2-3 hours. We start the race at 1 p.m., allowing racers to finish into the prime ‘hang out’ hour. It’s also during Snowbird’s Oktoberfest, which is a double score. Let’s bag a peak, give cheers to all the pro’s that finish in insane times, and have a cold one and appreciate the beauty of where we are.

I’m truly lucky to have the chance to put this series together.

Can you tell us a little more about your life in the winter as a skier, and your brand Discrete?
It’s an expansion of my comfort levels. It all started in 8th grade when I learned to ski. I attempted my first 5 foot cliff into powder. It was amazing. I kept at it, until I was 100% comfortable with 5-foot cliffs. Then it became 10-foot cliffs. Then 20-foot cliffs. That trickles down to air awareness, snow safety and body positioning. It takes lots of thinking to pull off cliffs. You have to have a deep understanding of the snow layers, trajectories, heights, etc. I now have two world records in cliff jumping. I love it. It’s my ultimate way of connecting with the mountains. I am so grateful I can now add mountain running to my passions.

And, yes, I founded Discrete. We’re opening 30 stores with REI this fall, plus we’re 2 years in Zumiez, & Evo. We are proud of our products, check us out: discreteclothing.com

What is in store for Peak Series 2017?
We had Jackson Hole and Aleyeska officials attend the races this year, so they’re both looking into expanding the race for 2017. I have some other resorts I’m in conversation with as well. It’s exciting. One quote I’ve always remembered is, “The best ideas are always the most obvious.” And that is very true for the Peak Series. I just want to bag an excellent peak in less than 10 miles, breathe in some fresh mountain air, get a monster workout, and cheer on some friends. Simple. I’m very stoked on the momentum of the series.