The US Ski Mountaineering Association (USSMA website) recently announced a changing of the guard with Nick Francis and Chad Brackelsberg stepping down from their positions as President and Vice-President. Ram Mikulas of Summit County, Colorado and Matt Hickey from Colorado Springs (originally from Minnesota) will be taking over their roles effective immediately.
Nick and Chad will continue in a support role while the new duo finds their legs. We reached out to Mikulas Ram to get some more information on the new President and where he hopes to take the USSMA under his leadership.
Q: How long have you been ski touring and ski mountaineering racing?
I grew up recreational hiking, climbing, and kayaking. After a shoulder injury I begun mountain biking a lot, fell in love with it and got involved with racing. That let to road racing, trail running, and finally skimo. I started off skinning resorts with friends 6 years ago and jumped right into racing. I loved how dynamic ski mountaineering racing is and was quickly hooked!
Q: What do you do for work when you are not out skiing?
I worked in the corporate finance world in Denver, where I’m from, for many years. My wife and I had a weekend mountain getaway and played the weekend warrior game for a while, but made a change and moved up to Summit County 11 years ago. I work year round at Copper Mountain Resort as an eCommerce Manager. Awesome mountain, company, and people.
Q: What inspired you to go for the USSMA president position?
Whatever I’m involved in, I like to immerse myself and learn as much as possible and be involved below the surface. I quickly became passionate about the sport and wanted to find ways to introduce it to others and help it grow.
A few years back I worked with some other racers in Summit County, CO to help start the Summit Skimo Club. I’ve been acting as VP and have been leading a program we have to introduce new people to skimo and provide clinics for all abilities. I’ve had some great communication with Nick and others involved in the USSMA over the years. So, I suppose my passion for the sport and community has inspired me.
Q: What skills are you bringing that you believe will help you in leading the USSMA?
Organization, leadership, and communication which will be key moving forward.
Q: What are your primary goals to accomplish over the next few years?
The Vision of the USSMA is to expand the sport of Ski Mountaineering throughout the United States, with a current primary focus on developing the association into a fully functional national sports organization.
My goals will be to establish formal structure and process within the association and to become financially viable and appropriately resourced. With the recognition of the IOC and looking toward inclusion in future Olympics, I will strive for an enhanced focus on fundraising and developing athletes.
Q: Will the US develop a standing ‘National Team’ separate from its ‘World Championship Team’ similar to Canada and other countries?
This is a direction the USSMA would like to move toward as we focus on developing athletes. As for when and to what extent will need to be determined by available resources.
Q: The US has large participation numbers for skimo. Why do you think this is?
Awareness and access to uphill skiing is growing and resorts are beginning to embrace this new demographic. SIA (SnowSports Industries America) data reports strong growth in the backcountry / uphill sector. I think the bottom line is that the word is out and people are trying it, which leads to more people participating at a recreational and competitive levels.
Q: How can the USSMA encourage more US athletes to race on a world stage (World Cups and Grande Course events)?
As the USSMA builds resources and a National Team is developed more awareness, exposure, and support should be available to assist and encourage US athletes to race abroad.
Q: How does the PRO2022 program encourage athlete development?
Project 2022 is a concept to identify up and coming skimo athletes that the USSMA can help develop into future Olympians. PRO2022 Camps will be put on throughout the country in skimo hot spots to identify talent, coach the coaches, and build the foundation with the under 23 (U-23) age group.
Instruction is built around the ISMF Sprint Course (likely Olympic event) and designed to “shortcut” American skiers’ path to elite skimo technique. The first camp was held a week ago in Summit County, CO and was a big success with many U23 athletes and coaches. Plans are underway for setting up additional camps this season. More communication to come.
Q: Right now a focus is on ‘coaching the coaches’, what does this mean and how is it being accomplished?
The focus is to build a coaching and support structure to develop athletes. PRO2022 Camps in 2016/2017/2018 will include “coach the coaches” to train regional coaches on the US skimo coaching methodology.
Call for Comments & Suggestions
What questions would you pose to the new USSMA leadership? How do you think skimo racing could be progressed in North America?
More reading: Interview ISMF President
The above interview was second in our “presidents interview series” so if you would like to know more about direction of skimo on the world stage read Interview with ISMF President about Skimo & Olympics and Anti-doping Efforts with Armando Mariotta.
Archives for December 2016
When it comes to shopping for your first-ever skimo racing setup there is no “fit-for-all” advice as each person’s goals, budget and athletic background are different. Some are new to skimo racing or even ski touring altogether while others have already achieved some athletic success in other endurance sports and want to give skimo a serious try from the start.
With all that in mind, I will do my best to provide the most useful and honest advice for everyone new to skimo, and point them to the right gear that is currently on the market.
Majority of the below mentioned gear can be purchased online or in person from our two favourite skimo specialized stores – Skimo.co in Salt Lake City and Cripple Creek Backcountry in Vail or Carbondale.
Don’t make the mistake focusing only on weight and price. Fit is very important when it comes to boots as it will determine how well you will be able to control the tiny race skis on descents as well as for how comfortable you will be training in them.
The most suitable entry level racing boots are the La Sportiva Syborg, Dynafit PDG and Scarpa Alien. All three are similar weight (800-850g/boot in size 27MP) and are priced around $750 USD (700 Euro, $1000 CAD) depending on the deal you find. Therefore, your decision should come down mostly to already mentioned fit and availability.
Only slightly heavier but more suitable for regular touring with bigger skis are the new Dynafit TLT7 Performance and Atomic Backland Carbon Light, both weighing just over 1kg/boot in size 27MP. Both are priced around $900 USD (850 Euro, $1200 CAD).
For those that are ambitious right from the start or can spend more money, you can try jumping straight into the Dynafit DyNA (basically a lighter PDG) or Scarpa Alien 1.0. Then the very top level boots, even more expensive, are the Pierre Gignoux Race 400, Dynafit DNA, La Sportiva Stratos (Cube and Hi-Cube), and Scarpa Alien 3.0.
There are many skimo race skis on the market so I won’t list them all but I will give you a couple of pointers and will mention only those with the best price-to-weight ratio.
The good news is that the “entry level” skimo skis are generally only about 100-150g heavier that the top line yet costing about 20-30% less.
For racing, there is a rule that men’s skis have to be at least 160cm long while women’s can be 10cm shorter. You should be looking for skis weighing less then 900-1000g/ski and not wider than about 68mm (ideally 64-66mm) since all racing skins are manufactured for those widths.
To get you on race skis without paying the top price you should check out Hagan Ascent, Dynafit PDG, Atomic Backland UL 65, Voile WSP, Movement Gold Fish-X, or older models of race skis from these brands that can be still found on sale. You will pay around $600-700 USD ($800-950 CAD, 570-670 Euro) for all of the above new models.
Overall, it’s difficult to recommend specific skis for a specific skier because it depends on your weight, height and style of skiing – aggressive, careful, expert skier, intermediate skier, etc. But in general all of them will ski somewhat similarly – the first couple of times, it will feel like you need to learn to ski again 😉
There are three important things when shopping for race bindings (even “entry level”):
- With few exceptions, all models can be mounted only for one boot size as the heels have no adjust-ability!
- Don’t mix-and-match toe and heel pieces from two different brands on your race skis. First, it’s race illegal, and second it could pose a safety issue.
- Buy a model without the auto-lock feature – it’s forbidden by the sport’s rules. This means that when you step into the toe piece it won’t lock itself right into the touring (or locked-out) mode automatically but rather you have to nudge it to that position.
The good news is that all bindings listed will likely last you for many seasons. The only maintenance you will need to perform is changing the heel pins every 2-3 seasons (they are cheap).
Here are the models we recommend: Hagan ZR (optional mounting plates allow heel to move), Plum Race 150, Plum Race 170 (possible to adjust heel for 2-3 different boot sizes!), Dynafit Superlight 2.0, Kreuzspitze SCTT, ATK Race SLR World Cup.
Once shopping, expect to pay around $500-600 USD (470-570 Euro, $650-800 CAD) for the models mentioned above.
Thankfully, there is not much to contemplate about “entry level” skins. You can just buy any skins that fit your race skis and are preferably made of mohair (or similar fast gliding fiber). The width should be about 3-6mm narrower than the middle of your skis – in general, race skins are pre-cut to 58-62mm and are the same width in their full length.
With that, we recommend buying the skimo race skins: Pomoca Race and Race Pro 2.0 models, Colltext PDG, Dynafit Speedskin, Ski Trab World Cup, Hagan Mohair.
Some race skins can be bought in a roll or as an ready-to-go package with bungee cord tip attachments already in place. The cost for a pair of skins will be around $100-160 USD (90-150 Euro, $130-220 CAD).
There are many skimo race packs on the market and more-or-less all of them perform quite well but like with boots the fit is important, and that is the crux with almost all packs if you are either smaller or taller than an average male (175-185cm / 5′ 7″ to 6′). The best idea is to try some on first or buy the one that lets you adjust the sizing.
All of last season, we worked with Ultimate Direction to design two race packs that allow for size adjustments and even come in two different sizes – the first skimo packs to ever do this! Both of them borrow some features from their famous running vests that we seamlessly merged with the necessary skimo functionality. Check them out: UD Skimo 8 vest and UD Skimo 18 vest.
For a new skimo racing pack/vest, expect to pay about $100-160 USD (90-150 Euro, $130-220 CAD).
With new regulations coming into effect this season, we recommend buying only helmets that are fully compatible with these new rules – we wrote a whole article about this a couple of weeks ago so there you can find all the right models.
Beyond that, even more than with boots and packs, the fit is very important! And if there is some space for a bandanna/buff to slide inside for those cold days then even better.
Skimo Race Suit & Clothing
While skimo race suits are fine pieces of gear designed for the most efficient skins management and ventilation I don’t think a novice to the sport needs one for their first couple of races. As long as your clothing is well/slim fitting and your jacket has some nice pockets for skins then you will be just fine.
The middle ground between a full-on one piece race suit and just slim fitting touring clothing are some double-piece “suit” options. Perhaps buying just a jacket will give you most of what a one-piece suit can offer.
One-piece skimo racing suits cost around $250-350 USD (240-340 Euro, $340-470 CAD) while the two-piece solutions would come to about the same if you buy both the bottom and the top.
Just like with the race suit, you don’t need specific skimo race poles for your first couple of events and most of your training. Light ski touring poles will do. In fact, even top racers use pretty much just shorter xc skiing poles as they work quite well.
To figure out the correct length for your ski poles see this article on how to do it – How to choose the right length (and kind) of skimo racing poles for you.
Prices will range from $80 to $180 USD.
Avalanche Gear & Training
Last but not least, let’s take a brief look at the avalanche gear you will need for racing and your training. On top of that, you should also take at least some basic avalanche courses to educate yourself how to use this gear the most effectively as well as to how to avoid avalanches altogether.
Avalanche beacon – choose a 3-antenna beacon from reputable brands like Pieps, Mammut, Backcountry Access, Ortovox. Prices will range from $300 to $500 USD.
Avalanche probe – for racing you only need a 240cm probe but if you are going to buy only one then we recommend 280cm or 320cm length. The extra length is beneficial should you find yourself in a real rescue. Carbon probes are lighter than aluminum but are also more expensive – we leave it up to you to choose. Prices will range from $50 to $150 USD.
Snow shovel – just like with a probe, to meet skimo racing regulations you only need a “kid’s toy” shovel like CAMP Crest but we recommend buying a more robust shovel that is actually usable in a rescue scenario. If you opt for something with a short handle but strong blade of decent size then you will be way more equiped. Prices will range from $50 to $100 USD.
After reading the whole article it may seem that skimo racing is a super expensive sport but it is possible to be strategic with your spending. You can buy a lot of used gear (don’t do this with avalanche beacon) or using online sales and package deals from specialized shops like Skimo.co or Cripple Creek BC. Also, remember, that lots of this gear will last you for many years and will take you to place no expensive carbon bike can ever do.
If you would like to know more about race gear and even skimo training then check out our Manual For Ski Mountaineering Racing where we discuss specific how-to tricks.
The last two weeks have seen big storms dumping snow all over North America and kicking the skimo race season into a full swing.
The first North American event of the year was the Vert 180 at the Calgary Olympic Park, part of the Canadian series. Local race series at Aspen, A-Basin, and Brighton already held their first uphill events and have also started up for the season.
USA Race News
COSMIC Eldora Rando Return – Dec 3
With the popularity of racing in Colorado, and specifically in Denver/Boulder area, it was only a matter of time when a race would be born closer to the Front Range. Eldora resort opened their doors and put on a classic Colorado style event with steep up-tracks and fast groomer skiing!
Max Taam and Rory Kelly battled since the start, with Max maintaining a half a minute lead at the finish. Meanwhile, Jessie Young dominated the women’s race, more than five minutes ahead of Annie Gonzalez in second.
COSMIC Irwin Guides Race – Dec 10
Irwin is one of the more unique races – situated above the town of Crested Butte, the race starts at and climbs above 3000 meters (10,000 ft), giving much to complain about even for the most acclimatized racers. Irwin also stands alone, entirely outside of a ski area boundary but within the Irwin Guides tenure and is one of very few true backcountry races in North America. Racers are required to arrive at the start line by a snowcat or a sled!
John Gaston showed up for his first domestic win of the season while Crested Butte veteran Brian Smith battled to a tight finish for second just ahead of Max Taam, and about a minute and a half behind Gaston. The top two positions on the women’s podium remained unchanged from the previous weekend with Jessie Young and Annie Gonzales taking first and second but the third spot was taken by Breckenridge’s Nicki Larochelle.
USSMA Northwest Passage – US Team Qualifier – Dec 17-18
The first of two weekends used as US Team Trials for the upcoming 2017 World Championships, the Northwest Passage Race in McCall, Idaho was shaping up to be very competitive. Despite being a first time event, and dealing with a foot of new snow the day before and extreme cold on race day, the races went off with barely a hitch.
Friday featured a vertical event over a 500 vertical metres course. The new snow meant the race went up an ungroomed ski run that both the organizers and USSMA leadership desperately tried to maintain a skin track on. Soft conditions and lots of kick turns favoured technically strong athletes. The top four finishers would qualify for the US Worlds Team in a vertical race.
John Gaston took an early lead and put on a clinic on uphill skiing while Mike Foote, Tom Goth, and SkinTrack’s Eric Carter swapped for the next three qualifying spots and ultimately finishing in that order. A major note is U23 racer Cam Smith from Gunnison who finished barely a minute off the lead group. Expect big things from this guy competing against his peers at Worlds!
Janelle Smiley made her fantastic return to racing following a multi-year break due to a hip injury and dethroned Jessie Young. Veronika Mayerhoffer, an Austrian XC skier attending university in Utah, finished 3rd, with the final two US Team qualifying spots going to the athletes in 4th and 5th – Kristi Knecht and Jaime Brede.
» Vertical results – Northwest_Passage_Vertical-Results-2016
Saturday’s individual event was looking grim with extremely cold temps in the forecast. Luckily, things were a bit warmer (only about -15 deg F) and with no wind making it quite bearable. A Le mans style running start was a fun way to warm up followed by a single climb on a groomed run, after which the race was entirely out of the ski area boundary until the final descent to the finish. The race featured great fall-line skiing on powder slopes and nice, low-angle skin tracks (that were doubled!) with plenty of kick turns. The cold made for difficult skins management and some racers struggled with blown skins.
The men’s race was very competitive, the only notable name missing was Jason Dorais. John Gaston took the lead early in the race and stayed away from his chasers. Eric Carter maintained second place throughout while Mike Foote and Tom Goth battled hard for third place (top three finishers would qualify for Worlds Team while the 4th will be determined at the upcoming Sunlight Race). Mike and Tom hit the final skins-off transition together and raced down the final descent to the finish before Tom broke a pole and lost ground with Mike taking the qualifying spot.
Janelle Smiley skied away from Jessie Young early in the race and maintained a solid gap throughout. Nikki Larochelle again showed her strength as a legitimate contender, finishing third with Meredith Edwards in fourth!
» Individual race results – Northwest_Passage_Individual-Results-2016
Photos: Gallery 1, Gallery 2
Europe Race News
French Vertical Champs in Tignes – Dec 17:
- Axelle Mollaret
- Laetitia Roux
- Mireia Miro (Spain)
- Lorna Bonnel
- Xavier Gachet
- Remi Bonnet (Swiss)
- Matheo Jacquemoud
- Alexis Sevennec
» All categories results here
COSMIC Wolf Creek Rando Race – Jan 7
One last tune up for the Colorado athletes before the following weekend’s US Team qualifying race, Wolf Creek provides a great course and venue!
SMCC Castle Mountain Canadian Team Qualifiers – Jan 7/8
The sprint and individual races at Castle Mountain are part of the selection process that will determine the Canadian World Championship Team.
Expect Nick Elson to be going for the top position while several others will be competing for the podium spots including Peter Knight, Joel Desgraniers, Matt Reid and Travis Brown. Long distance runner Rob Krar is expected to attend in order to try to qualify for the Canadian Worlds Team as well. On the women’s side, Kylee Ohler is a favourite while her training partner Michelle Katchur Roberts will surely be going strong as well.
COSMIC Grand Mesa Powderhorn – Jan 14
The day before the Heathen Challenge, this race may see lower turnout due to the draw of the US Team Qualifier. Who has the guts to race all three days? Teague Holmes?
COSMIC/USSMA Sunlight Heathen Challenge – Jan 15/16
The second US Team qualifying event, expect some serious competition. First, the sprint race will be a chance for athletes to compete for four spots on the US Worlds Team. It’s possible that some of the individual race contenders may sit this one out to save their energy, leaving places open to other athletes.
The big show, however, will be at 7:30am on Sunday morning when racers will compete for eight spots for the Teams Event at Worlds and, most importantly, for the fourth and final Individual spot on the team. Expect Tom Goth to be back with a vengeance but Max Taam will have a home field advantage. Hopefully we will also see Jason Dorais jump back into the mix as well.
On the women’s side, Meredith Edwards appears to have the fourth spot in her grasp but it is difficult to predict!
There are also 10-12 guys who all pose a legitimate threat for the top eight team spots. In addition to those above, we expect to see World’s veterans Teague Holmes, Rory Kelly, and Jon Brown in the mix!
Every year, manufacturers release fancy new gear to tantalize us. This is a selection of gear we think is innovative and probably worth having a look at for this season (as well as being actually available).
We’ve got a mix of things for skimo racing, and true ski mountaineering. Have a look as the holidays are getting closer and let us know if we missed anything groundbreaking!
» Besides the below, also check out our new skis introductions from the Outdoor Retailer show last January.
Petzl Leopard LLF Crampon – 330g / pair
» Product link
The Petzl Leopard line of crampons shows promise as a new ultra-light option (CAMP RACE 290 is 376g) that still functions well.
Aluminum crampons are a great for skimo races and winter ski mountaineering where one does not expect to encounter ice. CAMP innovated several years before with a dyneema strap linking the front and rear crampon parts but the design had significant play, especially in the toe, making the crampon inadequate on technical terrain and prone to failure.
The Leopard’s cable linking system eliminates play and allows for quick and simple micro-adjustment. The LLF crampon is a traditional step-in for use on boots with a welt while the FL crampon can be used on footwear without welts. We’re excited about the possibilities of using these both for racing, as well as ski mountaineering.
Grivel Skimatic Race Crampon – 408g / pair
» Product link
The Grivel Race Crampon mixes things up with a new step-in system. While it still has a metal linking bar, making it a bit heavier and not fold-able, it uses a rear bail wire with a spring system at the boot toe for retention. This is especially promising for use on boots with a vertical heel throw lever like the Scarpa Alien or Gignoux Race 400.
Probably not as secure for alpine climbing and ski mountaineering adventures but time will tell.
Ultimate Direction Skimo 8 vest – 200g
» Product link
Ultimate Direction is well known for their running hydration vests. In 2015, they decided to try out building a skimo pack that would not only do everything required but also fit well. The 8 Litre World Cup pack is the smallest and designed for individual, vertical and sprint races.
Our SkinTrack team worked extensively with the R&D team at UD on the Skimo 8 and Skimo 18 packs. Having participated in the design process, we can safely say the Skimo 8 is extremely effective, comfortable, and very light! Watch for a more thorough review coming soon.
La Sportiva Stratos Hi-Cube – 900g / pair (size 27)
» Product link
Introduced last year and available for purchase this season. A big of departure from their previous carbon boot line and appearing more similar to the Gignoux models, they are as light as they come and have already accumulated extensive palmares on the feet of Michelle Boscacci and Damiano Lenzi in multiple World Cups and Championships.
You can read more about them in our article from January.
Pomoca Race Pro 2.0 Skins
» Product link at Skimo.co or CrippleCreekBC.com
Although looking almost identical, the 2.0 model has similar traction while climbing but significantly faster gliding. We will definitely try these out as the reports coming from the World Cup are that it’s not just hype.
Fischer Verticalp Ski – 1230g / pair
» Product link
Coming from a nordic ski background where skis are selected and fitted specifically to the athlete based on weight and flex pattern, I’ve always wondered when more specialized flexed skis will come to skimo.
The Fischer Verticalp is a step in this direction with a ski designed specifically for vertical races. It features a straight side-cut, a higher camber for better kick and glide, and is incredibly light.
An adjustable weight system allows you to decide where the balance of the ski is located. Paired with a lightweight binding like the Gignoux, you will be guaranteed to need to tape a few weights to the top sheet in order to meet the ISMF minimum race ski weight requirements! (That is 750g/ski for men and 700g for women, including the binding.)
Aski Race Ski – 1470g / pair
» Product link
A relatively new race ski from Europe, now available in North America, the Aski Stealth is a lightweight option and less stiff than more traditional options.
Maybe not the best option for hard packed on-piste events but we’re looking forward to giving these a try this season to see how they perform in the variable conditions often found in races. They get the nod from Skimo.co owner Jason Borro who has tried out more race skis than anyone in North America!
Black Diamond Ultralight Camalot
» Product link
Maybe not hugely innovative but certainly impactful. It’s rare that a piece of gear sees such a dramatic drop in weight but the new Ultralight Camalot from BD weighs 25% lighter than the last generation Camalot, mainly by using a dyneema core in place of metal. We would expect a hit in durability that accompanies any dramatic loss of weight but these are holding up well alongside the rest of my rack so far.
Pieps Micro – 110g
» Product link
This is an interesting one but worth putting on the list for the absolutely weight obsessed.
Prior to 2016, the majority of athletes raced with the Pieps Freeride beacon – weighing in at 110g and about the size of a flip-cellphone, it featured a single antenna and very simple operation. It served more as a transmitting safety device than being designed for great search functionality.
For the 2016/17 season, new ISMF rules require a 3-antenna beacon (which most of us have for everyday backcountry use). Pieps has responded to this rule change with a 150g beacon called the Micro.
We suspect that most racers won’t pay the $400 price for the Micro and they will stick with their normal beacon (the full function DSP Pro weighs in at 200g) but for the truly weight obsessed, this is the lightest option.
Petzl Altitude Harness – 160g
» Product link
It’s not the absolute lightest harness in the world but it is close. It is also the most featured race style harness available and only slightly heavier than the CAMP ALP. This looks to be the best option for ski mountaineering where a harness must be worn for glacier travel and even a bit of easy climbing but where weight is top priority. We like the easy access (without having to remove boots/crampons) and the flat webbing design that prevents rubbing under a pack. Put it on and forget about it while you wear it all day.
The Canadian Skimo Cup kicked off with its first race of the season at the Canada Olympic Park in Calgary last Saturday.
With its unusual format – start at 6pm to do as many laps as you can in 3 hours – and working within the venue’s terrain (135m climb) it provides great opportunity to practice skimo transitions and to have fun with friends in a relay team or going solo. There were over 70 athletes participating.
Race Recap and Most Notable
Before you study results in detail below I would like to point out that the juniors were racing for 1.5h instead of 3h and within that time only a 14-year old Tom Stevens managed to clock in 9 laps just like the top men were doing! That is 1215m in 1.5h including 9 bootpack and skins-off transitions, plus 8 skins-on transitions at the bottom. If Tom keeps at it then Canada might have a medal contender for World Championships in cadet and junior categories in the years to come!
Another notable moment came when Travis Brown, a leader mid-way, had to drop out of the race from first place due to stomach problems that were impairing him the days leading up to the event.
After that the race for first was a close battle between Peter Knight (18 laps) and Joel Desgreniers (17 laps) with Peter coming out on top. Matt Reid (17 laps) secured the final step on the podium.
Once again, Kylee Ohler, pulled of a great performance the whole day – organizing the event itself and then racing – to come up with a solid win and collecting 17 laps for a total of 2300m. Michelle Roberts was racing well and trying to stay close but eventually lost about by 1 lap (10-12min) to take second. Marg Fedyna took third with 14.
There were also 2 and 4 person relay teams lapping the course and having great time.
» Full results are here: 2016-Vert180-results
My assumptions are that most skimo racers lock out their toes close to 100% of the time when skiing on race skis (in races and training), and over half of the time when skiing on their bigger/backcountry skis.
Personally, I usually unlock my toes on my bigger skis when conditions are “breakable” (crust, wind slabs…) and when skiing where coverage is thin or trees are tight because the risk of twisting a knee or simply falling are higher. I do the same on my race skis but less often.
One rationale for locking the toes is to prevent losing a ski that is without brakes. Occasionally, I use ski leashes to prevent loosing a ski but not often enough which then gives me a “bad” reason to have my toes locked. My main fall prevention method is skiing at speeds at which I feel in full control – my perception is that I am in control 80-90% of the time.
Some seasons I used ski brakes and after watching the talk below I think that is the best option to prevent loosing a ski while skiing with an unlocked toe.
Locking vs Unlocking while Skinning and Steep Skiing
By now, you have probably noticed I have been only talking about locking/unlocking the toe pieces while skiing downhill and that I haven’t mentioned skinning (tour mode) at all. This is because I don’t know anyone who skins with their toes unlocked even occasionally. However, the video below will point out situations when it would be advisable to do so.
Skiing steep terrain or when conditions are hard/icy are probably the only two situations when I believe locking out the toe is preferable. The risk of premature or unwanted release in such situations outweighs the other risks, in my opinion. Also, when you are skiing something steep or icy then you are skiing carefully anyways, therefore, already minimizing the chance of injuring yourself due to skiing and crashing at high speed.
Lower Leg Injury and Deep Avalanche Burial
Now, that I have pointed fingers (at all of us) and put my thoughts out there, go ahead and watch this highly recommended research talk.
Jeff Campbell – Retention and Release in the Backcountry:
What Are Your Habits and Thoughts ?
Scroll down to the comments section and share your habits and thoughts on this topic. It’s always interesting to learn what other people are doing.
Until the very last day, entries were coming in for the SkinTrack November Gear Contest that we ran from Nov 1st to Nov 30th. Today, thanks to our gracious partners we are announcing the two lucky winners.
Prizes and the Winners
The total value of each prize packaged was $250 and included:
- SkiMo 8 racing vest from Ultimate Direction ($100 value)
- $50 gift certificate to shop online for Hagan Ski Mountaineering gear
- $50 gift certificate to shop online at CrippleCreekBC.com
- $50 gift certificate to shop online at Skimo.co
From over 200 hundred participants the random generator selected these two winners:
- Steffie who mostly skis and trains in Utah, USA
- and Ian who usually skis in Vermot, USA
Thank you everyone for participating and congratulations to Steffie and Ian – we will be in touch with both of you via email!
With many things going in the right direction for the sport of ski mountaineering racing, we reached out to Armando Mariotta – the president of the International Ski Mountaineering Federation (ISMF) – for an interview with 10 questions we were curious about.
We divided them into two sections – Future of our sport and its place within Olympics, and ISMF’s anti-doping efforts.
Future of Ski Mountaineering Racing & Olympics
Q: By IOC recognizing the ISMF this summer, skimo racing is one step closer to be an Olympic sport. What are the things that still need to happen for skimo to truly be in Olympics one day?
Just to be clear: the IOC recognition has been for the ISMF and not for skimo as a new Olympic Sport. With the full recognition we can now ask the IOC to accept our sport into next Olympic Games.
Q: Do you think skimo racing as a sport will be included in Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics? Also, would it be officially called “skimo racing” or “ski mountaineering racing”?
Our first effort is to enter the program of Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne 2020 and then we could ask to enter Beijing.
The name of the sport is clearly ski mountaineering.
Q: Which skimo disciplines are the most likely to make it into Olympics?
The first step will be to have an acceptance by the IOC for a new sport into the Winter Olympic Games and then we’ll discuss which discipline(s). As you know for example sport climbing had all the three disciplines but only one medal.
Q: ISMF recently renewed its media contract with Infront Sports & Media – a big sports media company that represents all seven Olympic winter sport federations, manages media rights for the FIS World Cup Events, and even represents big football/soccer teams. What does this mean for skimo?
The contract will give to the ISMF and to our sport many new possibilities to grow in the international TV visibility, a space to the organizers for their sponsors in the TV area range, some money to the ISMF and the possibility to have a Press Agent (Lucia Galli) for the institutional and sport press releases.
Q: What is the ISMF’s plan to encourage more youth participation in our sport? And what are your thoughts on growing our sport as a whole?
With the limited resources we have we are working for youth. For example, thanks to the collaboration of DAV and OSV from 8 to 11 December we are going to organize a youth camp in Austria for aspirant young athletes. In view of the work for the YOG we have new ideas and projects.
Q: Is it true that most of the ISMF personnel (staff, referees, committee members, etc.) are volunteers and receive no money?
You are right. All the members of the Executive Board, Management Committee, Commissions are volunteers as well as the Referee Manager and the Referees.
The only people paid are the Secretary (Giulia Avagnina), the director of the Sport Department (Rebecca Vernon) and the technical director (Gil Orriols).
You can completely read our 2015 accounts revised by the auditor on our Website www.ismf-ski.org – official documents section.
Anti-doping Efforts and Latest Doping Cases
ISMF has accepted WADA anti-doping code couple of years ago, thus, I would like to ask a couple of questions regarding anti-doping efforts in our sport.
Q: During World Cups and World Championships, does ISMF test athletes directly or does it coordinate the testing with a national anti-doping body in that country?
The ISMF some years ago decided to sign an agreement with SportAccord as service provider for the anti-doping tests, so they organize directly all the controls.
Q: How many in competition and out-of-competition anti-doping tests does ISMF (on its own or through its partners) performs every year?
In the average the ISMF through its provider SportAccord does:
- 28 In-Competition tests (28 Urine tests)
- 81 Out-of-Competitions tests (36 Urine tests + 3 Blood tests + 42 Blood tests included the Athlete Biological Passport)
- 17 Out-of-Competition blood tests covered by National Anti-Doping Organizations (NADO) as part of Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) sharing agreement
Moreover, the ISMF includes at least 10 top-level athletes in the Registered Pool Testing (RTP) every year.
Q: Were there any positive doping tests in skimo in the last 5 years? Where does ISMF publish this information?
There have been two Adverse Analytical Findings in skimo in 2015, if we consider the past 5-year-period: one RTP athlete in World Championships in Verbier, and one popular athlete in a La Grande Course race (long distance teams race).
Information about the first case was officially given with the press-release on 3rd December, 2015 which can be found at www.ismf-ski.org – News section.
Concerning the second case, another official communication will be published always in the news section of the ISMF website in the near future.
Q: How many Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) applications does ISMF receive every year? What percentage does usually get approved?
The 2016-2017 season will be the first one with the management of the TUE for the ISMF. In the past, it was a management of national federations, so we don’t have this type of information.
From one of the answers it is very obvious that our sport is still small despite so many great races and its history. It seems like the only way to grow is through becoming an Olympic sport because TV rights are where the money is – we wrote about this in regards to skimo two years ago.
With potentially more money coming into the sport in the future there will likely be a rise in the number of doping cases. This is just a fact and not only in sports but sadly in society in general. However, we believe that skimo will continue to be one of the best sports to put your children in.
What are your thoughts? Or questions you would ask? Please share them in the comments section below. Thank you.