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Written By Kieran Crimeen
I’ve been ski touring for only a few seasons now so still consider myself a newcomer to the sport. Unfortunately during my second season I fell in with a bad crowd and was introduced to Joel, one of the dreaded skimo racers. He skins fast and bootpacks faster and was really a poor partner for someone as unfit as me.
Last season Joel and I got out a lot and long days in the mountains. Having no background in endurance sports or interest in training our early days were hard. But as my fitness increased so did my speed and my ability to get stuff done. I began to get pretty enthused about doing longer days or smaller days faster. Naturally at this point Joel started hinting about skimo and how the fitness and efficiency benefits skiing big lines.
Routes like this don’t have to be a huge undertaking
I think there’s some merit in being able to park the car along Commonwealth Creek and snake four laps at Tryst before anyone else gets there, or being able to sleep in and still have the summit to yourself when corn o’clock rolls round.
With some bigger goals in mind for this season I succumbed to peer pressure and entered the Fernie Lizard Skinner as a way of seeing just what is possible for a punter to accomplish. A long course is around 1300-1600m of elevation and about 15kms (the short course is about 800-1000m). That approximates pretty well to many of the popular spring objectives in the Rockies such as Hector, Andromeda or Athabasca.
I’ll not talk about the 2.5hrs of suffering that the race entailed except that I spent much of it questioning my decision to enter, but the next day (before DOMS set in) I was thinking it was pretty fun. A couple of soft bump descents, some grinding uphill and deep bootpacking all contributed to what’s commonly described as Type 2 Fun.
There was also the sprint race the following day. I don’t feel this has much relevance to backcountry skiing but it was a hell of a lot of fun, chasing three others at a time on two skin intersecting skin tracks and finishing with a mini GS course. Other course formats (depending on the venue) are a descent focused skiduro, much like mountain biking enduro with timed descents and of course the puke inducing vertical races.
Despite the presence of tight lycra and spandex the sport is pretty much just ski touring but fast. Efficient transitions, good skinning practices and skiing in challenging conditions all help in the backcountry when you’re after a big goal. Racing also helps nail down an absolute minimum time in which you can do the vert and distance, allowing you to plan a trip accordingly. This might make the difference between planning to just ski in to the hut or managing to bag a peak on the same day, or net you a few extra hours of sleep on a spring morning.
If you’ve got any interest in getting fitter and faster in the mountains drop by for a chat and a coffee. There’s also a weekly skinning group on Friday evenings at Norquay where we can help you work on your technique or let you try out some of the ultralight cheat skis the pros race on.