Here are some common questions about Ski Mountaineering
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Q: What is SkiMo?
A: SkiMo also know as ski running, ski mountaineering, or rando racing comprises everything from timed racing events that follow established courses through challenging winter alpine terrain to skiing uphill for fitness to climbing challenging peaks with lightweight ski gear. Skier climb and descend under their own power using backcountry skiing equipment and techniques. SkiMo combines ski touring, Telemark, backcountry skiing, and mountaineering. The Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme (UIAA), is currently trying to make ski mountaineering an olympic event in the 2018 Olympic Games.
Q: My gear is heavy – can I still have fun?
A: Of course! Ski Mountaineering gives you the freedom to move across all kinds of terrain in the winter. Lightweight gear can help you move father and faster an maybe have more fun (especially on the way up), but traveling through the mountains on any setup is fun! For ski running and fitness skinning lightweight gear is helpful, but heavier gear means you get more of a workout over less distance. In the races different categories for different levels of gear exist. Often there is a heavy metal category for everyone on their regular touring gear. Decide how competitive you want to be. Try renting lightweight gear for the weekend and see if you like it. Or, bring what you have and get after it on the descents you will definitely have more fun and go faster on the descents.
Q: What do I need to go racing?
A: Check out skimo.co for a complete selection of skimo gear. Skintrack.com also provides a great overview and comparison for skimo gear. In general lighter gear means you can go faster and farther. For races the ISMF 2015/16 rules state that the lowest legal weight for a ski + binding (half pair) is 750g for men and 700g for women and the shortest skis allowed are currently at 160cm for men, and150cm for women.
- Bindings: Some sort of super light race binding, they last forever, and they’re very dependable for long trips (and racing). Some examples include the Hagan ZR, Dynafit Low Tech Race, Plum Race bindings and Ski Trab race bindings.
- Boots: A light, flexible boot makes the difference going uphill fast and ski touring all day. If you practice skiing on lighter boots you’ll be surprised how well they ski. Race boots typically weigh less than 850g. Scarpa Aliens, Dynafit PDGs and Dy.N.A. Evos, and the LaSportiva Syborgs and Stratos are some of the most popular. Each company makes a slightly heavier less expensive model and a lighter carbon fiber model that is more expensive.
- Skis: A competitive pair race ski should less than 850g/ski as well. Numerous manufactures make them including Hagan, Voile, Atomic, Dynafit, LaSportiva, Ski Trab, Solomon, and others.
If you’re on a budget: older model, non-shaped, foam core slalom skis that go for $40 at ski swaps work OK as long as the snow is light.
Q: Isn’t that a lot to spend just on race gear?
A: Yes, but you can use your new gear many days outside of racing. Many people use race gear for corn days, long tours (like a Sierra High Route) or a Desolation Tour, or any day when you want to cover lots of ground. You can also use the gear for fitness and run up and down the ski hills to get into incredible mountain shape. Unless the snow is extremely deep, racing gear works great for long tours, spring corn, and anything with a long approach.
Q: Is it more difficult to ski on lightweight gear? And how hard are the downhills in races?
A: Of course skiing on lightweight gear is more challenging but it is still really fun and with a little practice good skiers can descend very challenging runs on race weight gear. During races good skiers will gain a great deal of time on the downhills. Participants in the race divisions should be comfortable on ungroomed, expert slopes. Recreation division skiers should also be comfortable on advanced to expert, ungroomed slopes.
Q: What about telemark skier and splitboarders – can they join in the fun? Do they have to race with the AT skiers during the races?
A: Everyone who can skin uphill and slide back down on skis or board is welcome. During races there will be divisions appropriate for telemarkers and split boarders.
Q: I don’t want to race, but I want to try ski running and skinning for fitness can I still play?
A: Certainly! Come to our group skis and meet other folks who are excited to use skiing and skinning as a way to stay fit and have fun. For the races you can volunteer and help out; there’s plenty to do. You can be a course marshall, help ski in the up-track, or help out in the start/finish area.