Sunshine 5000 race report: great battles, long course…little rocky

Sunshine 5000 is the oldest race on the Canadian ski mountaineering racing calendar and its 6th going was held last Saturday (Feb 6th, 2010) at the Sunshine Village ski resort near Banff, AB.

Start line - calm before the storm.

Start line - calm before the storm.

Sunny skies are nothing new to this event yet the course was a hybrid version of previous years. Long low angle climbs were spiced up by a couple of “no-wipe-out-recommended” downhills and one of the longest boot packs ever.

It also should be mentioned that one of the organizing pioneers of this race at the very beginning was Greg Hill, arguably one of Canada’s most famous ski mountaineers.

Greg himself raced couple of events over the years but now is pursuing more adventurous goals like climbing and skiing 2 million feet in a single year.

But the long standing pair that grind the event each and every year for all of us is David Dornian and Ryan Johnston. They keep the tradition rolling and improving.

» Original information about the event can be found in this article – Sunshine 5000 skimo race: Saturday, Feb 6th, 2010.

How the Sunshine 5000 was won – great battles

Stairs that led racers down to a little col to start the descent of the "feared" Delirium Dive.

Stairs that led racers down to a little col to start the descent of the "feared" Delirium Dive.

There were three main favorites for the top prize in the main racing category at the start line – Reiner Thoni and Brandon French in men’s category and Melanie Bernier in the women’s category.

Behind these three there were about 3-4 men and 2-3 women hungry for the rest of the honors.

Men’s race

Top tier men’s duo, Reiner and Brandon, formed early on and pretty much never looked back. Occasionally switching the lead they were watching each other, always staying closely together.

In the final descent, they shared some tumbles thanks to a very rocky section that wrecked couple of skis on the day.

At the end, Brandon crossed the line first just  handful of seconds in front of Reiner, however, he lost a skin on the course and received a time penalty which moved him to second.

Always present, always competitive Steve Sellers (currently at 4th) leading Stano Faban, Ian Gale and Andrew McNab over the first climb.

Always present, always competitive Steve Sellers (here at 4th place) leading Stano Faban, Ian Gale and Andrew McNab over the first climb.

These two guys look quite hot for the upcoming World Ski Mountaineering Championships and it will be very interesting to see how high they can reach among the best.

Delirium Dive line that was skied in the race.

Delirium Dive line that was skied in the race.

The battle for third can be described in great detail as I was one of the protagonists but here is a shorter version to keep you reading onto the girls race.

During the first (long low angle) climb James Minifie settled at 3rd with a steady pace. About 50sec back a trio consisting of Steve Sellers, Ian Gale and myself (Stano Faban) chased him. During the third climb and before the big descent I opened a gap on Ian and Steve while steadily bridging to James.

The last two ascents James and I kept hurting each other until I was able to establish a little gap just before the long boot pack.

Then in the final descent both of us, just like Reiner and Brandon, hit some rocky fields on multiple occasions. And as James was trying to catch me for third he hit them hard also with his body but thankfully survived without any serious injury. Couple of badly cut fingers though.

5th and 6th place went to Ian Gale and Andrew McNab. To read Ian Gale’s race report visit this page – Sunshine 5000 race report.

Women’s race

Green shows parts of the last climb and red a little bit of the last decent.

Green shows parts of the last climb and red a little bit of the last descent.

The women’s race was dominated from start to finish by this season’s Canadian fast girl Melanie Bernier.

After a slightly disappointing previous season Mel is racing with great determination this year, and even giving us men some serious schooling on how to climb quick.

Behind her, the battle had a more interesting going where failing skins, perhaps due to big changes of temperature between sunny and in the shade transitions, played a role.

At the end, Billie Velisek took second in front of Julie Matteau who is trying hard to find her last year’s strong legs before she heads to Andorra for the World Championships.


Complete final results will be added as soon as they are available to me (2-3 days) in electronic format.

Big thanks to organizers and volunteers

On behalf of all racers I would like thank the organizers for preparing a very challenging course (last decent a little rocky for me though) and also express a great appreciation to all the volunteers for their hard work, especially for doing it out of pure joy to help out a crowd of crazy racers to get a chance to compare themselves. Thank you all.

Share your experience form Sunshine 5000

Whether a competitor, organizer or a volunteer you are welcome to share your experience from this event in the comments below.

Training Plans for Skimo Racing

Skimo Racing Manual


  1. thanks for this report Stan and the nice picture. Of course all those guys behind me in the picture beat me!! O well motivation to keep trying! My heart goes with all you guys heading off to Andorra

  2. Thanks James, it is much appreciated.

    And as always you managed to throw in some good smack talk ;) . Thanks for that too as it keeps me training hard.

  3. I second those comments Jeff. I wasn’t around for the “early” years of Skimo racing in Canada but I like what I’ve seen over the last few years. Much of the positive has come from Stano and his clan. It can be hard to develop as an athlete and be a fierce competitor and at the same time help grow a sport from the ground up. Sometimes it can be perceived that these type of people are too close to the National Federation and somehow influence it’s decisions. I think you walk this fine line brilliantly Stano. Without competitors like you, this sport will go nowhere. Your Standing as an athlete on the Canadian team is well deserved. You are a strong Skimo racer, I found that out in Sunshine on the weekend. I hope you realize though that you should relish the fact that you edged me out on the weekend in the final stages of the race…… won’t happen again!!!

  4. Thanks for kind words Jeff.

    I like both skimo racing and just fun backcountry skiing equally but the former can use more of our support, whereas, the later you guys have firm hands on for long time, so there I prefer to follow and learn from examples of the Revy and Golden crews (and other Canada’s mountain communities).

  5. Nice report Stano, great to see everyone telling their story. Jules and I were just talking on Saturday about how the sport of Skimo in Canada is much better with you in it. Seeing your family cheering everyone on, your friends on the start line and volunteering at the transitions (and putting in the track!), is motivation for all of us to put in a little bit more…Great job on the podium too!

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