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Whose beard is the best? Facial hair enthusiasts gather for competition in Utah

Judges consider contestants in the partial beard freestyle category at the 2022 Great American Beard and Moustache Championship at Snowbird resort on Saturday.

Judges consider contestants in the partial beard freestyle category at the 2022 Great American Beard and Moustache Championship at Snowbird resort on Saturday. (Emily Ashcraft, KSL.com)


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LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON — Beard and facial hair enthusiasts gathered Saturday at Snowbird for the Great American Beard and Mustache Championship, sporting carefully manicured facial hair.

Participants were judged in 26 different categories, based on where hair was located and its length and style. Although most contestants were men, women competed in "whiskerina" realistic and creative beard and mustache categories.

The North American Competitive Beard and Moustache Alliance, which was formed in 2011, includes over 70 facial hair clubs that work together to support charity facial hair competitions, where fees and winnings are donated. This championship is held every other year, and many contestants also participate in international competitions held other years.

Multiple contestants told the crowd which hair club they came from as they presented their beards.

Jamin O'Malley, a judge from Minnesota, said it can be tough to decide a winner, especially for categories with only a few people. He said he looks at the facial hair's unique shape and color, and the person's style, as well as whether they are accomplishing what they are going for if they are wearing a costume or have a theme.

"While they are grouped together by category ... it's how you wear it just as much as how it's trimmed or styled," O'Malley said.

A few fortunately bearded contestants came planning to be spectators and ended up joining the competition.

Sarah Schoenwolf, of West Valley City, said her husband began growing a beard and learned about beard competitions through Whisker Wars, a reality TV show that began airing in 2011. The couple has since met a community of friends who come to each competition.

Outside of the actual competition, there is a full weekend of events for anyone who wants to be involved.

"We have a good time ... it's a lot of work but it's also a lot of fun," Schoenwolf said.

Although, outwardly, everyone was extremely friendly and enjoying others' beards, Schoenwolf said it is "very competitive" and people put a lot of effort into their beards and hope to win. Judges consider how a beard is worn, how the color works with them and if there is a costume or theme with the beard, which can differentiate someone in the competition when beards appear similar.

Schoenwolf said at national competitions, Europeans generally have more distinguished and proper beards, and are not as interested in the freestyle efforts that typically do well in American competitions.

Her husband, Greg Schoenwolf, president of the local Salty Saints Social Club and Facial Hair Society, had a freestyle partial beard but he was not in the competition this year since he was involved in running it. He said participants put a lot of effort into their beards.

"It's amazing how many people we've met (who) are just like lifelong friends now," he said.

Greg Schoenwolf said the turnout for Saturday's competition was about a fourth of what they had scheduled for the 2020 competition that was cancelled. They were on track to have 400 competitors then, but this year there was closer to 100 competitors, which means a little bit less money for the charities they are sponsoring.

The group chose to support Wasatch Adaptive Sports, a charity associated with Snowbird, because of the resort's help hosting this event, as well as smaller competitions during Oktoberfest. Some of the proceeds will also be donated to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

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Emily Ashcraft joined KSL.com as a reporter in 2021. She covers courts and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.

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