World Skimo Championships Here We Come

In the US, ski mountaineering racing is a little known, but quickly growing sport. I first got involved in the sport in 2003 the first winter I lived in Utah and the first Wasatch Powder Keg was held. In 2004 and 2005, the Powder Keg was a World Cup race (the only 2 times a World Cup has been held in North America). Watching the Euros compete at the World Cup race was an amazing experience. Their speed and skills far exceeded any of the skills found in the US. I dabbled with some other races over the years including the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse (which at the time was actually a nordic race). In 2008, then the organizers of the Powder Keg decided they had enough, Emily, Mark Christopherson, Gambrelli Layco, and I took over the race. We quickly learned as much as we could about being race directors and were able to put on a very successful race our first year. Since that first year, Mark and Gambrelli have retired, we have done the work on our own, and now we have the help of Nick Francis. During this time, we have continued to grow the race at 10-15% and get more and more involved in the sport as proponents and racers. I has been exciting to see the number of races growing as fast as the number of competitors. The Wasatch now has the Powder Keg and the Wasatch Citizen Series and there is the Crowbar in Logan. With the Powder Keg being a 3 day race this year, there are now 14 races in Utah. What a change from only 1 race 2 years ago.

In 2012, I decided it was time to start getting serious about my own racing and purchased light gear (but not super light). After a few races during the 2011-2012 season I was hooked and by the end of the year had a true race setup (Hagan X-Race skis, Dynafit TLT Performance boots). It was also during the season that I started working with Pete Swenson of the US Ski Mountaineering Associated (USSMA) to put together plans to continue to grow the sport. Over the summer and fall of 2012 we were able to come up with 3 year growth plans and get others involved to help. Pete, Bryan Wickenhauser, and myself also attended an ISMF Referee Course. There have been other US Referees, but today we are the only 3 in the US with up to date certifications.

To take my own racing to the next step, this year I moved to the next level of boots (Scarpa Alien 1.0) which are completely revolutionary. When the National Championship Race came up, I was 900g/foot light and this led me to having 2 great days of racing and feeling great about my performance (I finished 16th at Nationals and 15th the following day). I can’t wait to get onto the new Voile Wasatch Speed Project skis. A prototype was shown at Outdoor Retailer 2 weeks ago and I should have a pair to test in the next 2 weeks!

The World Skimo Championships are held every 2 years. This year they are being help in Pelvoux, France. For the US, the first 3 races of 2013 were our team qualification races. The top 3 men and women from the National Championship Race in Jackson, top 2 men and women from the Grand Targhee Classic, and the top 3 men and women from the Heathen Challenge in Sunlight would make up the 8 person mens and women’s team. With qualifying races completed, I was happy to only be 3 or 4 slots back. Since Bryan Wickenhauser and Jason Dorais were unable to go to Worlds Greg Ruckman and Andy Dorais would earn their spots. You can see from the team list at the bottom of this posting that we have a lot of work to do in promoting our sport to women and kids so that we can start filling a full team.

The US Skimo team also needed a coach. In the past Pete Swenson has gone as coach, but with a busy work schedule and new baby, his schedule didn’t leave for time. This opened up an opportunity and thanks to the Wasatch racers (Luke included), my name was brought up as the a good selection based on my own racing, the success of the Powder Keg, and my involvement int he USSMA. I was thrilled and honored by the opportunity. When you aren’t fast enough to qualify yourself, you need to be creative to find ways to join the team. The World Championships is a 7 day event with 6 distinct events: Individual Race, Team Race, Relay Race, Sprint Race, and Vertical Race. To get to be involved in this week long racing event is exciting.

With a full day job, the Powder Keg, and working with the team on planning and logistics for the World Championships, it has been a crazy buy last 3 weeks. As I write this, I am on a flight home from Dallas from a 3-day work trip and will be home for 15 hours before going back to the airport and heading to Europe. I can’t thank Emily enough for her supporting me doing this. I also owe a huge thanks to Emily, Nick Francis, and Eric Bunce as they are all picking up some of my Powder Keg responsibilities when I am gone. I can’t repay the enough.

Here are some links you can use to get more details. I plan to be blogging each day on the USSMA site and will be trying to tweet during the race using @USSMA_SkiMo, @thebrackpack, @PowKeg


Men’s National Team

  1. John Gaston (US National Champion)
  2. Tom Goth
  3. Marshall Thomson
  4. Max Taam
  5. Luke Nelson
  6. Scott Simmons
  7. Greg Ruckman
  8. Andy Dorais

Women’s National Team

  1. Janelle Smiley (US National Champion)
  2. Nina Silitch
  3. Stevie Kremer
  4. McKenna Douglas
  5. Kim Young
  6. Meredith Edwards

Espoir Team

  1. Matt Burgunder

Junior Team

  1. Micah Thatcher

Tentative Race List

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