Steve Drabik, dressed as The Scarecrow, skis at last year's annual Screamin' Tele Lizard Classic on Mount Ashland, when the theme was 'The Lizard of Oz.' The theme at Saturday's event will be 'Cutting loose with Dr. Seuss.' - Photo by Andy Atkinson

Cuttin' loose with Dr. Seuss

Whether you like green eggs and ham, you'll want to head for Mount Ashland Saturday morning if telemark skiing is your passion.

The costume theme for the 16th annual Screamin' Tele Lizard Classic is "Cuttin' Loose with Dr. Seuss."

Expect to see a few cats in the hat, Hortons or a Who, and a grinch or two carving tele turns into the powder on the Winter slope at the Mt. Ashland Ski and Snowboard Resort.

"It's just a coincidence that the day before the event is March 2, Dr. Seuss's birthday, and also the launch this year of the movie, 'The Lorax,' " says Zac Kauffman, race director and founder. "We decide the next year's theme at the awards ceremony by an audience 'Applaud-o-Meter.' The runner-up was 'Spoofing the '60s with Austin Powers.' "

Dr. Seuss is a minor departure from the annual event's theme, which tends to be based on a movie. Last year's theme was "Lizard of Oz." The best costume award went to Jim Turner for his rendition of Dorothy — sans Toto.

"There was someone who came as Toto in a basket," Kauffman recalls.

The Tele Lizard race is a giant slalom-styled event in which each participant takes two runs, navigating a series of gates and ending with an optional jump that the judges use to determine the prize winner for "best air."

This week's winter storm blast could generate enthusiasm for the event in what has proven to be a lackluster snow year.

"The big storm coming through will definitely energize folks," says Kauffman. "Unfortunately we'll lose some interest because the (downhill) skiing will be real good. Some people may just do one run, but they'll show up for the post-race party."

Although prizes are awarded at the party for the fastest times, best costume, best air and best crash, plenty of participation prizes will be drawn from the stack of entry blanks.

"Door prizes we're giving away include a couple pair of skis, a year's membership to the Rogue Rock Gym, and other equipment from manufacturers," says Kauffman. "That's our hook to get people to enter."

The Screamin' Tele Lizard Classic is a fundraiser for the Special Olympics. It is one of four stops on the "Telemark Oregon" tour, a series of four telemark events held statewide between January and April each year. The other events are the Telefest at Hoodoo, Tele-Tuesdays at the Mount Hood Ski Bowl and the Freeheel Frenzy at the Willamette Ski Area.

The number of contestants at the Tele Lizard in the past few years has remained stable at around 70, a number Kauffman believes will register again this year. Many of the new faces he sees each year are alpine skiers looking for a new challenge.

"The equipment has come a long way," Kauffman explains. "Tele boots are similar to alpine touring boots, very comfortable but still have a billowed flex in the toe area, so you get the flex of the telemark boot but the rigidity of the plastic."

A beginning telemarker with an alpine background can easily adapt, Kauffman believes, "by learning the basics of the turn, though some people do mostly parallel turns (in the competition)."

This blurs the distinction between telemark and alpine skiing in this event.

"The only stipulation is that you have to have telemark skis on your feet," says Kauffman.

Though the Tele Lizard is billed as a race, many participants don't think of it that way.

"I've done it two or three years," says Ashland telemarker Dave Brennan. "It's more about camaraderie and the wackiness of costumes. It's all in good fun."

Brennan is somewhat of a rogue when it comes to costumes, ignoring the official theme.

"One year I dressed as a clown," Brennan recalls. "That way I could accidentally cut someone off or fall down and people would laugh with me."

Daniel Newberry is a freelance writer living in the Applegate Valley. Reach him at

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