About Ski Mountaineering Competition - 'Skimo'
Ski Touring Racing
Ski mountaineering (or randonnée racing) is a winter sport that combines athletic skiing and mountaineering skills over medium distances, incorporating technical ascents and descents. Ski mountaineering races introduced a new dimension to this beautiful sport in Europe in the 1980’s. The concept is extremely simple – racing over steep alpine terrain using ski touring gear, gaining and losing elevation (up to 1800 metres worth) past a series of checkpoints set along ridges and peaks. Some parts of the course require skinning up snow slopes, some involve scrambling with the skis on packs, and some slopes reward polished downhill technique. Some more technical courses may require boot packing or traversing fixed lines. The entire itinerary needs to be completed carrying essential gear from a mass start on the valley floor. Typical high performance athletes finish in less than 3 hours. Citizen racers relax and spend the better part of day. Category winners are the ones who cross the finish line first. Results are determined by time.
These are athletic challenges, rather than tests of local knowledge – routes are marked and the techniques to employ are specified at all points on the courses. The sport enjoys a great popularity all over the world with a rapidly growing community in North America. Athletes and citizens that participate in such events tend to be skiers, splitboarders, trail runners, backcountry enthusiasts or simply endurance enthusiasts who seek a fun challenge. The supervised and controlled routes make the races ideal for young competitors who do not yet have a lot of out of bounds experience.
Skimo in Europe
Ski mountaineering competitors are often popular athletic heroes in western European nations. They are widely admired, and arrive on race day heavily promoted by outdoor equipment interests and their home country’s mountain federations. The ISMF organizes ski mountaineering races around the world in a World Cup Circuit. Here in Canada, the SMCC organizes an annual competition calendar and tracks athlete’s performance over the season to determine a National Champion and choose a Canadian National Ski Mountaineering Team.
In the latter part of the 1990s, the International Ski Mountaineering Federation was established to oversee the European and Youth competition calendars, organize an international World Cup series, and lobby for the sport’s inclusion in the Olympics. The first official ISMF World Championships were held in Serre Chevalier, France, in January of 2002. On very short notice, the ACC organized (we canvassed regional backcountry ski pros for recommendations) a team of two men and registered Ptor Spriceneiks and Richard Haywood for the championship event. The two draftees served well, suffering selflessly as our impromptu national team. And, wonder of wonders, they didn’t finish last. Perhaps we DO have some national pool of talent for this kind of thing.
Visit the ISMF website to read about the organization’s Olympic aspirations. The site also has downloads of rules, competition calendars, and international contacts for the sport. The Alpine Club of Canada is a member of the ISMF and has representation in their governing bodies.
Skimo growing in Canada
Meanwhile, here at home, there is strong encouragement for Canada to make more than a short term, one-shot effort. The ISMF would like to see Canadians at all World Cup ski mountaineering events in seasons to come. The ISMF would also like to see competitions held in their format hosted in North America. We’d like to see that too.
But if such events are to happen, and Canada is to mount a consistent team, we have to build a proper athletic organization. So, if you are interested in coaching, competing, fundraising, organizing events, or just learning more about what’s happening with this wild sport, please get in touch with us.