Ski Mountaineering Racing is a fast growing sport in North America! Read more about the sport below and contact a National Team Athlete if you have any questions. We would love to see you at a race this season!
Types of Races
The most common type of race in North America is the Individual. The World Championships of Ski Mountaineering takes place every two years and involves each of the following type of races:
The Individual race involves ascending and descending sections of a ski hill or mountain using skis with touring bindings, a split board or telemark equipment. Competitors use skins to ski up snowy slopes and some climbing is done by bootpacking (hiking) with the skis or board attached on a backpack. Different coloured flags mark the uphill, downhill skiing and transition sections of the race. Recreational category racers can expect under 1000 metres of elevation gain and loss. Elite category racers can expect over 1500 metres of elevation gain and loss.
The Sprint race is a condensed version of the Individual race. It typically takes less than five minutes to complete a circuit of skinning, bootbacking, skinning and descending. The ascent and transition platforms are marked by flags. The descent is marked by gates just like in alpine racing. Competitors complete the circuit once individually so that they can be put into the appropriate heat of up to 6 racers. Elimination heats take place until the final heat where 1st, 2nd and 3rd place are determined.
The Vertical race only involves uphill skiing with skins on. The race is a mass start and follows a specific flagged course up to 700 metres in vertical. The first competitor across the finish line wins!
The Teams race is a longer version of the Individual race (over 2000 metres of vertical) that is completed in teams of two athletes. Some fixed ropes may be included in the course and competitors may be required to use harnesses, via ferrata kits and or crampons.
The Relay is a longer version of the Sprint race that is done in teams of four male athletes or three female athletes. It is a mass start with one member from each team at the starting line. After completing a lap, the first team mate tags the next team mate in the start zone. First team to have all members complete the circuit wins.
Recreational – Great for those entering the sport! This course is the shorter option with less vertical ascent. Some races will keep descents to green and blue runs, while others may include more challenging runs. Check for each race.
Elite – Great for those more experienced with ski mountaineering. These race courses involve more distance and ascending and good physical fitness is required. Some race courses involve challenging double black diamond terrain.
- Clothing – dress in what you will be comfortable in for the whole race. Try not to waste time taking layers on and off during the race. Use a helmet you can keep on your head for the entire race. A headband is a great choice to keep your ears warm, but let your head vent.
- Backpack – you will need some sort of ski carrying system on your pack. Some packs will have an A frame attachment option or you can create your own loop and hook carrying system.
- Starting an Individual race – avoid going out too hard. The elite athletes will go out really fast. You want to be comfortable and not enter your red zone early in the race.
- Pacing – make sure you are going at a speed that you can comfortably breath and talk to other racers. If you are gasping for air you are going too fast.
- Transitions – practice your transitions (skins off, skis onto backpack, skins back on) before the race and know what order works best for you. Use the transition period as a rest to get ready for the descent.
- Skins – when you take your skins off your skis, fold them up and put them in your shirt/jacket for the descent. This will help them warm up and de-snow for the next climb. If you are having trouble with your skins falling off on the climb due to snow, take them off and scrap the skin across the edge of the ski. Having a back up pair of skins or voile straps is a good idea.
- Nutrition – make sure you bring some calories with you for the longer courses like the Individual race. Gels, or something that dissolves in your mouth or is easy to digest work best. Try to ingest 100-300 calories per hour.
- Hydration – bring water with you on the race course. Soft bottles work best. Be aware that hoses and nozzles can freeze. Fill your bottle or bag with hot water and if you are using a camelback be sure to blow air back into the tube after you take a sip!
- Preparing for the race – get a good sleep, drink lots of water and make sure the food you eat is easy to digest.
Ask National Team Athletes for tips or check out SkiUphill.ca for gear pointers and ski nights.
Check out Skintrack for information, gear comparisons and how to videos.