Going for Speed

April 6th, 2016 in Trips, Trails, & Tours

Past Articles

My “skimo” racing career was short lived. One race was all it took to realize it was not for me.  Skimo (which stands for Ski Mountaineering) or Rando racing as it is often called is uphill/downhill ski racing.  Popular in Europe, the sport involves skinning and boot packing up mountains and skiing down them.


I showed up to Alpental on a rainy day to participate in the Vertfest race, a benefit for NWAC our avalanche center.  I’ve had a reputation as a fast skier for years so I figured I’d do pretty well, maybe even had a shot at the prize money.  I was dismayed when I showed up to the starting line wearing my usual backcountry setup, powder skis and all,  to find lots of people in spandex race suits and expensive ultralight carbon fiber twigs to ski on.  When the air-horn sounded signaling the start of the race people took off running, literally running with skis on their feet.  I refused to join in the stampede knowing that these people wouldn’t have the stamina to maintain such a crazy pace for long.  When the route narrowed down to just two skin tracks I realized why everyone rushed at the start.  Caught in a traffic jam I broke trail to make my own skin track in order to pass the now slow moving conga line of skiers.  By the top of the route above of Chair 2, there were only a dozen or so skiers in front of me.  I transitioned and started skiing down the moguls on upper International. It was awful conditions, everything I hate about in-bounds skiing. Other skiers that I had undoubtedly passed on the uphill now zoomed by unfazed by the crappy conditions.  I dutifully made awkward tele turns until my quads burned. “Why am I doing this?” I wondered.  Once at the bottom I transitioned once more and skinned back up to do the second lap of the race.  When it was all said and done it took me just over 2 hours to complete the course, a full 45 minutes longer than the leader, a member of the US national team from Colorado. I swore I’d never waste my money on an entry fee again.

View of Mt Baldy from JuliousLater that year I set out to attempt to ski from High Camp to the summit of Mt Baldy and back in under 3 hours.  I succeeded and came in at 2 hours and 48 minutes.  I theorized that it would be possible to do it in under 2 hours if I had specialized skis, a pre-broken skin track, and a spandex suit.  While I haven’t bought any special racing gear I have gotten in better shape and this year I’ve tried twice to break the two hour mark, coming in at 2 hours and 10 minutes and the last time coming in just 1 minute over 2 hours. Next time I think I know what I need to break it.  And then I’ll need a new goal. Maybe an hour and a half is possible with specialized gear. Or maybe if we groomed the high country trail to Picnic point I could skate ski there and transition to backcountry skis? As Rich has told me, having a goal is important. It doesn’t really mater what it is.  I look forward to achieving my goal of skiing Baldy in under 2 hours in the coming weeks.  Then I’ll come up with a new goal. But don’t expect me to join a skimo race any time soon because I’d rather race myself in our own wonderful backyard.