Powder Skiing vs. Skimo Racing

That really is a silly blog title. There is no competition at all. Powder skiing will always reign champion in that battle.

We had a slow start to our snow pack this year so skimo training was able to take front and center for the first several weeks of winter when I was trying to avoid rocks and a faceted snow pack. This led to being able to create a decent base after far too long off of training (although not a good enough base for the early season races). We had several early season races (3 Wasatch Skimo Series races plus the Irwin race). The races were all fun, but I am definitely not up to the fitness level I would like to be at.

Irwin Skimo Race

Irwin skimo race. Photo by Joe Risi or Chris Thompson.


Emily at Irwin skimo race. Photo by Joe Risi or Chris Thompson.

Irwin Race Results


Wasatch Skimo Series. Photo stolen from Andy Dorais – http://slcsherpa.blogspot.com/

Regardless of the snowpack, it was time to get out into the backcountry after Irwin. We had several tours with less than optimal approaches.


Very thin mid December snow pack in Silver Fork

And upon digging we would quickly find out that our concerns of low snowpack instability were valid.


One of the reasons we have been playing things very conservatively

A pre Christmas rain storm up to ~9,000’ had us all concerned, but this rain quickly turned to snow and we were treated to a wonderful present from Santa with a week of the best powder skiing in the Wasatch in 2 years.

Mineral Fork Powder - 28Dec14

Our low elevation snow pack is still thin, Mineral Fork Road.


Post Christmas blower Powder in Mineral Fork.


Post Christmas blower Powder in Mineral Fork.

Epic Powder was replaced with high pressure and wind, sun, and rime crusts. Luckily that all came just before the Wyoming Roundup so it didn’t make traveling up to Jackson and Targhee for a weekend of suffering nearly as bad.

The Targhee race kicks off the 2 day, 3 race series. The weather at Targhee was great, about 40 degrees warmer than last year. An updated course this year gave us a hard booter and magnificent 2nd climb. The third climb was a long as always, but has great views of the Tetons. The skiing at the Targhee race was some of the worst imaginable. Ice and breakable crusts with frozen thunder thrown in was on the menu of every decent. I was able to finish in 1:43 which was 10 minutes faster than my previous best.


First climb up Targhee. Photo by Joe Risi

With a longer than 1 hour drive back to Jackson, we had very little time to get ready for the Snow King Sprint at 5. I needed to be there at 3 to help Cary, Pete, and Nick get setup. The sprint is not my strong suit, but since I am good at transitions, I can usually do fairly well. I came in 11th in the qualifying round in 6:33. Since I was also doing the timing, I opted out of the finals.

A quick dinner, a couple too many beers, and a short night sleep and it was time to toe the line at Jackson. Jackson is the hardest individual race of the season. It is long (~8,200’) and has super steep and icy climbs. After 2 races in 1 day, Jackson is always daunting. I can usually do fairly well as my summer running (that is if I would have run much last summer) gets me in good shape for back to back hard days. The Jackson conditions were 60 degrees warmer than the -40F wind chills of 2014. After the long first climb (over 3,000’), we were treated to the first descent that had great snow on steep moguls. One of the fun parts of the Jackson race is that the skiing is full on steep shuts, moguls, and a long 4,000’+ descent.


One of the massive Jackson climbs. Photo by Joe Risi


Booting to the top of Rendevouz Mountain. Photo by Joe Risi

I finished Jackson in in 2:59 about 5 minutes faster than my previous best on the same length course (I was 10 minutes faster in 2013, but the course was slightly shorter due to no Corbets booter). I was disappointed with my finish in that I just couldn’t get into high gear (and thus the pain cave) on the last climb and lost well over 5 minutes on this climb.

Here are the full Wyoming Roundup Results

We returned from Jackson to a full on Utah storm that dropped 15” of snow at our house. I was able to get in a great Monday post work and Tuesday before work ski in Summit Park followed by Tuesday nights Wasatch Skimo Series race that had some of the best snow of any race we have had.

What’s next? It is just 2 weeks before I head to Verbier, Switzerland as coach of the US National Ski Mountaineering Team as we compete in the World Championships. Until that time, we have a Wasatch Skimo Series races, the Crowbar race, and hopefully lots more powder skiing.

Check back frequently to this blog and the USSMA.org blog as we will have daily blog posts from the World Championships.

Verbier Ski Mountaineering World Championships 2015 from Verbier Ski Mountaineering on Vimeo.

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