Ski Mountaineering is coming to Marmot Basin.
On March 17, Marmot Basin will host its inaugural SkiMo competition as more than 50 athletes will descend on Jasper to subsequently ascend and descend approximately 1,800 metres on the ski hill before crossing the finish line.
SkiMo, as it’s known colloquially, is alpine touring with a stopwatch. Competitors use skins on their skis to climb, then rip them off to descend, then do it all over again until they reach the finish. A skis-on-the-pack “bootpack” is also part of the race course.
Alex Stieda, a former pro cyclist who will take part in the event’s “Masters” category, said the fitness of the athletes involved is something to behold.
“It is unreal how fit they are,” he said. “And their skill level is unbelievable too. Watching how fast they do their transitions to how fast they ski downhill after putting in maximum effort on the climb is amazing.”
SkiMo—or randonnée, as it’s known in Europe—is a relatively unknown sport in Canada, but Stieda and his colleagues at Ski Mountaineering Competition Canada are working to change that. SkiMo has huge appeal as a spectator sport, Stieda said, because fans can get so close to the action.
“Because the course is lift accessed, you can really set up to enjoy it,” he said. “In Europe people are out there with cow bells and noise makers, encouraging the athletes.”
SkiMo has its roots in ski touring, of course, but the race format means there are certain standards to which each event must adhere. For example, each race covers 1,800 metres vertical (climbing and descending). Up to 10 per cent of a course can be on foot (skis on pack).
While the course has not yet been made official (pending the green light from Marmot’s operations and avalanche safety teams), preliminary designs have competitors starting near the Fourth Parking Lot, climbing No Show and Porteous Way before making the first descent into the recently-opened Tres Hombres.
After climbing out of Tres, it’s proposed that they’ll ski to Knob Hill, ascend Suzie’s and descend Peak Run to mid-mountain. From there, the unofficial course has skiers ascending Chalet Slope to the Eagle Ridge return, from where they’ll boot pack to Cornice.
After they ski Cornice, another climb up Chalet Slope from mid-mountain will take athletes to the entry to Eagle’s East, from where it is proposed they’ll ski down to the Lower (Caribou) Chalet finish.
Recreational ski tourers are encouraged to register for the Heavy Metal category; those competitors will climb and descend approximately two thirds of the distance and elevation of that of the elite class.
Check www.skimocanada.org for more information.
Bob Covey // firstname.lastname@example.org