Thanks largely to the Euros, we've inherited a lot of cool ways to challenge ourselves on mountains, in all seasons of the year. My personal preferences (obviously) have steered toward winter sports and I spent the majority of my life to this point totally immersed in Nordic ski competition. But running somewhat parallel to that sport is another one which has really captured my interest of late: ski-mountaineering. Ski-mo, or randonee racing is a form of skiing which involves using climbing skins to ascend a steep run or mountain bowl, then taking them off to enjoy the descent. Repeat as needed.
And of course as soon as a means of travel is invented, someone has to try and do it faster, thus the ski-mo race scene was born. The Europeans and more recently North Americans have been inventing new and increasingly epic courses for these events in all sorts of mountain ranges, from the Alps to the Pyrenees to the Rockies. The "mountaineering" component will vary; sometimes the ascent requires competitors to remove the skis and hand-over-hand it using a rope, even ice axes and crampons!
The core component though, and the one which draws so many different athletes, is the challenge: how fast can you climb up a steep slope before quickly turning around and speeding down an alpine run, sometimes multiple times?
We decided to bring this great tradition to the Methow Valley, and are proud to introduce the Cascade Endurance "______" Ski Mountaineering Race (we're still searching out that perfect name), hosted at the Loup Loup Ski Bowl. On January 28, 2017 athletes of all ages and abilities will line up for a chance to tackle 2000'+ of vertical terrain for the inaugural titles. Food, rock music, costumes and equipment demos will round out what is sure to be a stellar day on the mountain.
Yesterday I got up to the Loup with area manager CP Grosenick and scouted our courses, and I'm totally psyched. While we might not share some of the more rugged terrain offerings (at least in our permit area) which Colorado races boast, the ample gain (~1300' per lap) at the Loup will give even the strongest athletes a run for their money.
Over the next several weeks we'll be launching more publicity about this awesome event, and get you all fired up for what is sure to be a fantastically-fresh and lively way to spend some snowtime!
Some teaser shots of our course (sans snow, but you can use your imagination...):