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Ski-Mountaineering 2019 World Championships: The latest from Villars

Ski-Mountaineering 2019 World Championships: The latest from Villars

Every two years, the world's best ski-mountaineering racers meet for the ISMF World Championships. This Winter, the action is taking place in the Swiss village of Villars-sur-Ollon. While most world champions will be Italians, Swiss or French, it's a great opportunity for athletes from across the globe, including Canadians, to see how they stack up against the best.

The Canadian Team for 2019 Worlds

 Senior W

Kylee Toth Ohler, Lori Anne Donald, Katarina Kuba, Courtney Post, Caroline Reid

Senior M Peter Knight, Tyson Smith, Matt Ruta, Matt Reid, Jean-Michel Voyer, Scott Semple 
Junior M Jessie McAuley, Noah Schuh
Cadet W Ema Chlepkova


What is Skimo Racing?  

 Ski-mountaineering racing is basicallly your typical day of backcountry skiing, except that the person who finishes the loop first wins. There are many different racing formats, including the typical individual race where athletes will complete a course that features between 1500 and 1800 meters of elevation gain in well under 2 hours. The other formats are the sprint (a 3 minute event similar to a XC skiing sprint), the vertical (a hillclimb challenge), the team's race ( teams of two on a course that has over 2000 meters of elevation gain) and the relay.

Here's a cool video from CBC that shows what World Cup racing is like:

How did our Canadian athletes do so far?

Sprint Race

Senior M

 Tyson Smith 44th, Matt Ruta 47th, Jean-Michel Voyer 51st, Scott Semple 55th 

Senior W Kylee Toth Ohler 24th, Lori Anne Donal 32nd, Katarina Kuba 35th
Junior M Jessie McAuley 21st, Noah Schuh 25th
Cadet W Ema Chlepkova 19th


Individual Race

Senior M

 Peter Knight 51st, Tyson Smith 53rd, Matt Ruta 54th, Matt Reid 62nd

Senior W Kylee Toth Ohler 25th, Lori Anne Donal 31st, Courtney Post 34th, Caroline Reid 37th
Junior M Jessie McAuley 10th, Noah Schuh 24th
Cadet W Ema Chlepkova 18th

We reached out to Eric Carter who is supporting the Canadian athletes this week in Villars. Eric has tons of experience on the World Cup circuit and he is putting on the Darkside Skimo Race this April in Whistler-Blackcomb. Here are a few questions he answered for us.

How is it to go to Worlds as a coach vs an athlete? Is it more or less stressful?

Far more stressful as a coach but very rewarding to see athletes try hard and navigate the ups & downs of racing (get it?)...

What do you think of the Canadian performances so far? Jesse placed 10th in the junior category, that is a huge result for a North-American!

The sprint was a bit of a mixed bag for the Canadian Team. Rain and wind made it a bit unpleasant, especially if you're used to -25 temps all winter. The sprint is also incredibly unforgiving - one mistake and you're done. Luckily, the premier event (Individual race) went incredibly well. Jessie had an outstanding finish in the Junior Men's race that suggest big things to come from the 18 year old. Veterans Peter and Kylee showed they deserved to be on the World stage and had solid results. A big chunk of the team were newcomers to the World Championships and showed level headedness in navigating a foreign country and race scene. I think the entire team should be proud of what they accomplished today. The support staff had more gear issues than the racers  ;)

Any cool gear tricks you learned on your trip? Secret Waxes or skin hacks? 

Clamp the wax vices to the toe lock lever and heel piece of the bindings, not the ski!

Do you enjoy the many different hats of being a racer, a coach and a race director?

Each is fun in it's own right. I guess I like to be busy but it's fun to step back from being a pure athlete and support others as well. I'd like to see the sport grow and one of the best ways I can do that is help pass along my experience. I'm not done racing yet though!

What is the state of skimo racing in North America right now?

It's in an extended infancy right now but for sure growing. Look to areas like Summit County, CO, Salt Lake City, and the Calgary/Canmore areas for fairly well developed clubs and expanding race series'. Elsewhere in NA, the infrastructure just doesn't compare to Alpine nations where you have fully supported National teams, historic races, and a huge recreational community.

What is the next step to increase the depth and the reach of skimo racing on our side of the Atlantic? 

The first thing is to support grassroots events and teams to grow participation. We should focus on bringing in the trail running and XC ski communities and show them how great it is to venture off piste in the mountains in the winter. A competitive competitive elite field needs direct support to expand and be seen on the world stage.

In your opinion, how important is aerobic fitness to being a complete mountain athlete? What’s the place of skimo in that?

 I don't think of competitive skimo racing as the "highest level" of our sport of ski mountaineering. Rather, I think competing helps us extend our fitness and techniques to take out into the mountains for real use where time is of the essence but combined with technical ascent and descent ability, off the prepared track.

Tell us more about that Blackomb Darkside race that you are putting on.

 Whistler-Blackcomb is the best ski resort in North America. We have the rowdiest alpine terrain and the best snowpack. We're going to use that to our advantage in this race. It's also already got more athletes registered than most NA races so we're expecting a competitive field! Come out and see what WB has to offer skimo racers and then we'll have a sick party. Stick around an extra day or two to do the Spearhead Traverse or some steep skiing on the Duffey Lake Road for the full Ski Mountaineering experience!

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