Coupe du Monde de Ski Alpinisme – Verbier

I had what I thought would be the perfect plan. I had to be in London for client meetings 13-17 January. Looking at the skimo race schedule, the first World Cup race of the season was scheduled for 17-19 January in Verbier. A couple of quick calls and I found out that my round trip ticket would be $400 cheaper flying out of Geneva on Monday and I could fly from London to Geneva on Friday for $120. To complicate the schedule a little bit, Emily and I would be racing Heathen Challenge at Sunlight Resort, Colorado on 11 January. With a little bit of complicated packing/planning I think I had it figured out how to pack for 2 race weekends on different continents plus a week of client meetings.

Heathen Challenge was a great race. Long, but not a lot of vertical so it was a great chance to work on my gliding. Emily and I both had good races (Heathen Challenge Results ).

Heathen Challenge

Emily at the finish of Heathen Challenge

I was flying out of Denver on Sunday so after the race, I rented a car and drove to Boulder for the night to visit Matt and Walter. I was excited to catch up with them and have a trail run on Sunday.


Matt and Walter

After a trail run on Sunday, I was off to the airport. It wasn’t a good start with a security flag of some type being put on my ticket and it taking me over 90 minutes to get checked in. I missed the first leg of my flight, but was able to get a later flight out and still get into London on time.

It was a busy week in London with client meetings, but I was really looking forward to the weekend and getting to race my first Euro Skimo race and then getting to free ski in Verbier for a day. Wednesday morning is when things went bad. I was stretching in the hotel in the morning and something in my back ‘snapped’. When this happened, I was hardly able to get off the floor. The only time I had experienced something like this during Leadman in 2012, but this was worse. I struggled through the next 2 days of work in constant pain and just hoped for the best. I was barely able to make it through the airport at Gatwick to my flight to Geneva on Friday. Every few steps I would have to stop breathing hard and sweating from pain. This was not good. I arrived in Geneva, picked up a rental car and headed to Chamonix to pick up Meredith and Wild Bill. It would be Meredith’s first World Cup race.

We arrived in Verbier and quickly starting catching up with race friends. I was excited for the World Cup race weekend .

Verbier World Cup Individual Race

Chad, Meredith, Martha, and Wild Bill

I knew the only way I would be able to determine if I could race would be to get out and skin a little. Meredith and I did a short 1100’ climb from Verbier. The climbing felt good, but when it was time to transition, I could reach my boots and bindings. When it was time to ski, I was not able to engage any of the lower back and leg muscles on my right side and therefore could hardly turn left. That pretty much made my race decision and I was extremely disappointed and bummed out. I had done all this traveling and had built up a lot of excitement about my first Euro skimo race and I was going to be sidelined.

At least there was still work to do. There was an interesting coaches meeting on Friday afternoon to review all of the new and updated ISMF rules. It was great to get clarification of them. Verbier is also the host of the 2015 World Championships so I was able to get a ‘lay of the land’ for next year’s races. Meredith was also really nervous so being able to support her in a ‘coaches’ role would be very beneficial to her and at least make me useful.

The pre-race briefing had lots of ‘show’. There was the parade of nations and presentation of numbers for the top 5 men and women racers.

Verbier World Cup Individual Race

The best of the best in the world

 The blistering fast start pace of a World Cup race

Verbier World Cup Individual Race

Melanie Bernier of Team Canada at the first transition

Verbier World Cup Individual Race

Somewhat obscured view of the top of climb 2 (up the ridge on the right) and climb 3 (straight up the front)

Verbier World Cup Individual Race

Martha on the final climb

Verbier World Cup Individual Race

Meredith on the last climb

The race was great to watch. My back got much worse when walking near the starting line and my foot sunk through a hole and my entire body seized up trying to hold the fall. This was not good and it only got worse throughout the day. By night I was not able to even stand up out of a chair. I was not in some of the most severe pain I had ever been in my life. After a tough night of sleep, I wasn’t able to get out of bed on Sunday. Unfortunately I missed the race on Sunday as I knew I couldn’t get up and down the mountain. I was not a lot worried about my back and my ability to get home the next day. After the race, we drove back to Chamonix for the race. What should have a dream for me, was more about pain management and I didn’t really get to enjoy my time in Cham.

I am now on the flight home and trying to feed the pain with Vitamin I and Valium and not sure of what to do next.

I had a busy week planned with the OR Show Race and OR Show meetings for the Powder Keg. I can’t imagine at this point being able to be on my feet for any amount of time for OR and am having doubts on being able to ski for a few weeks. I have dealt with back pain for many years, but this is like nothing else.


Wyoming Roundup Race Recap

3 Skimo Race, 15,000’ climbing, 18 miles of distance, in 2 days

At first thought, the idea of putting all that in 2 days sounded crazy. The Wyoming Roundup would be the newest US Skimo Stage race. It would combine The Jackon race, Grand Targhee Classic, and add in a new Snow King Sprint race. It was guaranteed to be a very busy weekend. Drive to Driggs on Friday, race Grand Targhee Classic Saturday morning, drive to Jackson, attempt to dry out gear before Saturday’s second race at Snow King, try to sleep, race Jackson on Sunday, then drive home. It makes me tired even recapping the plan.

As is typical for this race weekend, the weather forecast was cold. It was going to be snowing, below zero (F) temps, and very windy.

Emily and I were both excited for the race weekend. For me, it was to return for the third year to race Targhee and Jackson and for her it was to have her first big multi-race weekend.

We had a great Thai dinner in Driggs with Jason D, Josh, Nick, and Brita, then were back at the hotel to get our race gear ready. A 9AM start on Saturday allowed us a somewhat relaxing morning. The weather at Grand Targhee was socked in, windy, and cold as expected. There was a nice layer of fresh snow so we were hoping for good skiing conditions until Andy (the RD) told us to expect otherwise since the 40mph winds of the previous afternoon had scoured everything up high. We warmed up for a while, then had to wait for a 30 minute race delay for avalanche control work. We warmed up again and the race was off with the standard ‘stupid, fast’ pace. I struggled to get into a rhythm on the steep first climb. A fast and good descent got me into my rhythm for the second climb and I enjoyed the climb and the booter up Mary’s Nipple. The second descent was what I was worried about after last year’s breakable crust. Expecting the snow to get bad at any time, I skied cautiously. The snow stayed good, but was very thin. The last climb was long. I blew both skins and lost 4 places. After replacing skins, I pushed the pace up to regain 2 of the places. I reached the top and was excited about the steep couloir off the top. It skied great followed by a straight-line descent down the apron and onto a groomer. I crossed the finish line in 1:55:48 for 12th place. I was 2 minutes slower than 2013 which was disappointing as I was hoping to be around 10 minutes faster. I got some warm cloths on and waited for Emily at the finish line. Emily came across very cold with frost nip on her thumbs at 2:40:21 for 11th. Full Grand Targhee Classic Results.


Emily at Grand Targhee Classic Finish

We waited for awards and were on our way over Teton Pass by around 1. With lots of wet gear, we had things spread around the car as much as possible to dry. We go to Jackson and checked into our luxurious Super 8 room and went about getting our gear dried. Heater on high, doors and windows wide open. With Mark, Emily, and my wet gear the room did not have a good smell. Emily Sullivan came by and wouldn’t come past the door way it smelled so bad. We weren’t left with many options. We had just over 1 hour to get our gear as dry as possible before the Snow King Sprint Race.

We loaded up and headed to Snow King a little before 4. We got ready and started to warm up on the sprint course. The race would be 3 laps of 400’ each with several switchbacks and a booter. Sprinting is neither of our strong points so we just hoped to survive. When the gun went off, I felt very good and was able to push hard. All of our practice at transitions definitely paid off. Was was able to finish the 3 laps in 21:03 for 8th place. Emily finished in 27:54 for 7th.

Chad transitioning at the sprint race:!/portfolio/C0000xkYKqzUSodI/G0000GT2Z_NATWZw/8

We went straight to dinner (another Thai meal), the back to the hotel as quickly as possible to get our race gear ready for the next day. I decided against waxing skis and skins and instead just wanted to get things ready and off to bed.

Jackson was an 8AM start so we were up early. We arrived at the resort to cold and windy weather. Forest (the RD) announced it was -8F and 40 mph winds. Frostbite would be a real concern for everyone. Most people grabbed an extra layer ‘just in case’. As usual, we got warmed up and anxiously waited the race to start. Jackson is a big race. 10 miles and 8200’ ascent with some super steep descents. It is intimidating on fresh legs and even more on legs with 2 races on them.


A Speedy Jackson Start (photo by Jackie Concannon)

Jackson Start:!/portfolio/C0000xkYKqzUSodI/G0000GT2Z_NATWZw/21

I was having a great race. The ascents felt good and the skiing was very good. I kept a steady pace and tried to maintain my warmth. As I approached the Corbett’s booter, I put on an extra pair of gloves.

Chad topping out at Corbett’s ladder:!/portfolio/C0000xkYKqzUSodI/G0000GT2Z_NATWZw/33

After topping on on the Corbett’s we were in the full strength of the weather. It was so windy it was hard to stand up and it was so cold it was hard to breath. We moved our frozen bodies to the top only thinking about getting down as quickly as possible. When Emily arrived here, the volunteers told her she could not continue without going inside as her cheeks were white. She went in the patrol shack and as quickly as possible thawed her cheeks and thumbs and then was out on course again. This was standard for lots of racers and many who went in ended up dropping so it was great that she was able to dig deep and continue on. I got off course descending from the top of the tram not able to find the course in white out conditions. Once back on course, I pointed the skis down and did all I could to make up time. This descent is over 4000’ and it hurt. Your legs are burning and you know that you have 1 more 1200’+ climb left.

I reached the last transition, put on fresh skins that I had saved for this painful ascent and set out on a pace with Stevie and John on my tails. The 3 of us had been pushing each other all day and it was going to come down to this last ascent. Any mistake would cost me a place so I had to make sure everything went perfect. My fresh skins proved to be a great idea and I avoided any skin issues and the 3 of us topped out within second of each other. Time to make it a race. 1000’ of big moguls, then a groomer. I pointed them down and hung on. I crossed the finish line in 3:04:32 in 9th place.

I expected Emily in about 4 hours. That came and went and she came through very cold and frostbitten in 4:29:05 in 10th place.

I ended the 3 race series in 9th place in 5:21:23. Emily ended in 6th in 7:27:51.

The overall Jackson results and Wyoming Roundup Results can be found here:



We have a very busy couple weeks coming up with lots of racing.

  • This Saturday (11 Jan) is Heathen Challenge at Sunlight Resort
  • Next Saturday (18 Jan) I am racing the Swiss Cup in Verbier. I am in London for work and I was able to sneak in a side trip for this race.
  • 21 Jan is the OR Show race
  • 28 January is another Citizen Series race.


Impacts of racing in -8F and 40mph winds