On Saturday, 14 men and six women clad in fur pelts and flannel shirts faced one another in a variety of challenges for this year’s Extreme Griz competition. One of the most established and infamous events of Griz Days, the Extreme Griz Competition follows tests of brute force, feats of agility, and battles with sobriety. After five hours of events that took the contestants all over town, the competition ultimately crowned one local male and one local female as the Extreme Griz.
“The Griz is the Lord of the Valley. As the story goes, there was a baby abandoned in the mountains, and raised by bears. He has a magical musket that he shoots into the sky to rain down the powder,” said Top-O Hutton, former Griz champion and current competition coordinator. “Classically, a burly mountain man is the winner of the Griz competition. Most of the competitions are set up for that skill set.”
The day began with a pancake eating competition, where contestants faced one another to see who could gulp down a stack of pancakes the fastest. The events later moved to Rotary Park, where the contestants navigated a snowy obstacle course. Challenges for this event included zig zagging through pylons, running up a hill, jumping over barriers, and racing fat bikes. The axe throwing competition also took place at Rotary Park, where the contenders tried their hand at aiming flying axes at targets.
“There’s a psychological factor to this, it’s not all strength. It’s technique, you have to work on your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses,” said Straun Loken, last year’s reigning champion.
Activities then moved indoors, commencing with a leg wrestling competition. Laying down on the floor of The Pub at The Park Place, participants took turns swinging their legs in an effort to take down their contender. Following the wrestling matches was the log saw challenge, where bare chested contenders raced to slice through a log with a Swede saw.
“With leg wrestling, if you’re bulky it’s harder to flip you over. And if you have some woodsman skills and you know how to use a Swede saw, then you’re going to get through the log faster,” said Hutton. “General woods knowledge comes in handy, not that you necessarily need woodcraft skills to throw an axe, but it’s a mountain man activity in a way.”
Other events that took place that day included the Keg Toss, and a tug of war competition on Second Avenue in front of raging Griz Day attendees.
Once the final event wrapped up, the crowning of the Griz took place in front of a crowd of hundreds that gathered downtown. For the second year in a row, Loken won the Extreme Griz challenge.
“Everybody wins on Griz Days, that’s my saying. Everybody’s got the right perspective, we’re just having an amazing day. It’s the best day of the year,” said Loken.
Following her feats of bravery and strength, Alex Simons was crowned the 2020 Female Extreme Griz. Simons claims her technique this year was to Google advice the morning prior to the events commencing.
“Don’t train. Google everything,” said this year’s female champion as she walked off the stage with her metal crown.
While some contenders began the day apprehensive, as events ensued the Griz hopefuls gained not only confidence, but most importantly friends. Between the beers and pub food, the Extreme Griz contest made for hours of laughs, friendly competition, and memorable showcases of “Griz-liness”.