There were so many possible titles for this blog post (e.g. SkiMo for Dummies, WTF Am I Doing?, These Skinny Skis are Going to Kill Me and I Really, Really Hate This!), but I went with “Face Plants” because that is what happened when I forgot to put my boots into ski mode during my first race, “Tears” because there were so, so many of them, and “Gear Malfunctions” because I had no f-ing clue what I was doing out there!
For those unfamiliar with the sport of Ski Mountaineering Racing (otherwise known as Rando Racing, Ski Running, or just plain SkiMo), this is a timed racing event in which one skis up a mountain on typically very skinny, lightweight skis using climbing skins affixed to the bottom of the skis and then descends kamikaze style just so they can put their skins back on and climb up the next slope.
You basically ski up, down, up, down using a variety of backcountry skiing, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, and mountaineering techniques over an established course with various checkpoints along the way.
Due to three consecutive winters of FAI hip surgeries I had been on skis an average of about 1 time a year for the past four years and while I had spent my winters glued to a CPM machine and endless rehab routines my friends were all getting into SkiMo racing and I wanted in!
Luckily Utah has an awesome ski mountaineering association that sponsors a casual Citizen’s Race Series so I jumped into one of the first races of the season, which also happened to be my first time on skis that season. The course was ridiculously hard. I kept popping out of my bindings and laughed my ass off.
Excerpt from training journal:
First SkiMo experience ever. Did 2 laps on the course and it was ridiculously hard. There was a boot pack section that almost made me cry. I never want to do it again, but can’t wait for next week! Things I need to work on/fix:
- Learn how to lock bindings so I don’t pop out a hundred times and hold up traffic.
- Get brighter head lamp.
- Remove leashes from my skis since they are totally unnecessary.
- Wear bike helmet instead of ski helmet.
- Don’t cry.
From there I kept at it and participated in the Dynafit Snow Leopard Event at Alta in January 2015, which involved face planting, postholing up to my waist when my skins wouldn’t stick to my skis, crawling, and lots and lots of tears. I seriously wondered what I was doing out there and I was super frustrated when the Dynafit rep laughed at my desire to demo their race gear. Apparently my feet are too small for SkiMo racing and the rep told me I will have to wait until they make gear for kids – RUDE!
But I kept at it again and headed up to Brighton several evenings a week to do laps after the lifts closed in the dark and cold and mountain lion infested slopes. And then I impulsively bought a pair of race skis because I wanted to try them so terribly and was bitter at the Dynafit peeps for not letting me try their skis! I went with the Wasatch Speed Girls because I love the Wasatch and I so desperately wanted to be speedy and they were what the super nice guy at SkiMo.co suggested.
The skinny skis took quite a bit to get used to and after a test run on them I headed up to Logan, Utah to participate in the Crowbar Backcountry Ski event. I once again got my ass kicked, but I had a blast. I had so much to learn!
A few weeks later I ran the Antelope Canyon 55K off very little running and had a fabulous race. Apparently all of this uphill skiing did something to my fitness. I was stoked! I completely rested for a week and then did a tiny bit of running and skiing before participating in the Wasatch Powderkeg – Half Keg, which was seriously the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Journal excerpt:
I set a goal to finish in 2:30:00 and I came through the finish in 2:29:57. This SkiMo dealie is the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I am still trying to decide if I like it. The uphill part is great, but the downhills are downright frightening! The men’s winner said one of the descents was the worst snow he has ever skied on and I am just glad I survived – there were bodies and skis everywhere and I only wiped twice.
I am pretty thrilled with how I did considering the 55K two weeks before and running and skiing yesterday. I only missed the podium by a few minutes and had I known I could actually do that well I could have pushed a little harder and rested the day before [self-handicapping I know. Something to work on!].
Plenty of food, beer, sun, and prizes after the event. Overall a super cool event!
All in all I was thrilled with my first season of SkiMo “racing” and was especially stoked about what it did for my running. I don’t think it is something I will ever take too seriously, but it is a lot of fun and the low impact cardio is great and kept me from getting injured from too much running!
For the 2015-2016 ski season, I’ve already skied more vertical than last season by January 1st so I have no idea what is in store for this year. All I can say is I’m stoked!