Race – U.S. Ski Mountaineering National Championships

Jackson Hole Skimo Race

Me climbing the ladder at the top of Corbet’s Couloir Bootpack (David Bowers Photo).

The 2013 race season began for me in Jackson, WY. at the U.S. Skimo Championship. Two days of racing, started at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort on Saturday and continued on Sunday at Grand Targhee Resort.

Brad and I left Vancouver on Wednesday morning and picked up a Washington skimo racer and master boot fitter, Thierry, on our way through Bellingham. We made it to Jackson Thursday morning in time for a final training session up Snow King Mountain right in town.

On Friday we organized gear, picked up our bibs, and rested up. Skimo celebrity Stano and guide in training Igor joined us at the hotel. Not used to the cold in the Rockies we planned for a tough start when we saw the forecast at the start line to be -24 deg F.

Saturdays race covered 2440m of vertical climbing over 17.6 km of terrain. I started off in the second pack with Brad. The first climb went from the base of the resort, up a steep groomed run. Just after the start a big Moose crossed the track in front of the leaders. Halfway up the climb we turned off the groomed run and continued climbing up through icy moguls. I transitioned well but got left behind on the first descent. Keeping pace on the 2nd and 3rd climbs, I continued to lose time on the descents. The 4th climb took us up Corbet’s Couloir where we transitioned into a steep bootpack finishing up a ladder over the cornice to the summit and the JHMR tram station. The 4th descent took us all the way to the bottom of the mountain over steep mogul runs and through shrubs on the lower slopes. My legs were wrecked from descending and the final climb was slower than I would have liked. I skied into 19th place, almost 34 min behind the national champion who completed the race in 3:03:25.

After the race we drove over Teton Pass to Driggs, Idaho. The race on Sunday was shorter with 1525m vertical climbing over 12.8 km of terrain. I tried to start with a bit more conservative of an effort but was excited and didn’t want to loose too much time to the leaders. The first climb went all the way from the bottom to the top of GT on one of the steepest groomed runs I have ever skinned up. Several spots we had to switch from skinning to a Nordic style herringbone technique. My first transition was fast and I held my place on the descent. The second climb I fell into pace with my group and had a good transition to bootpacking. The second descent I could see several skiers ahead of me including Brad and Stano so I really tried to push my speed and not hold back. I caught up to the next group at the transition and kept a good pace on the final climb. With a smooth final descent I finished in 15th place, only 16 min behind the winner who finished in 1:51:57.

Photos are from a variety of sources. Hopefully I got the credits right.

Notes for the next race:

  • If a climb is noted to be particularly steep, I will start with my grippier Black Diamond skins.
  • A slightly larger water bottle might be in order for races over two hours.
  • My boots are light but still nowhere near the race boots. The power strap and laced liners definitely inhibit dorsiflexion on the steepest sections.
  • I need to be more comfortable descending on the edge of control, especially on hard moguls and breakable crust.
  • When folding skins, leave the tail a little past the tip to make them easier to rip apart. (better than using your teeth)
  • Rounding the skin tails makes them less likely to fail.
  • It is hard to eat during a skimo race.
  • Several fellow athletes living at sea-level were concerned about the effect of the altitude at which we raced (considerably higher than any Canadian race). I struggled much more with the cold, dry air than with altitude related shortness of breath.



  • Dynafit Speedup Race Suit
  • Swix polypro long underwear
  • Neck Buff and headband Buff
  • Petzl Hardshell Helmet (too warm!)
  • Lightweight Craft Nordic ski gloves
  • BCA Tracker Beacon (too heavy!)
  • Garmin 310XT HRM/GPS
  • ALPINA Tibet MT Sunglasses
  • Dynafit TLT5 Mountain boots (time for race boots!)
  • Dynafit PDG ski w/ Plum Race 145 binding
  • LEKI Cima Titanium poles


  • Camp 290 Race pack
  • BCA plastic shovel
  • BCA probe
  • Patagonia Houdini wind shirt
  • Leki Shark spare gloves
  • POMOCO Race Skins


  • In the hour leading up to each race I had one package of GU Chomps and 750ml water. During the race, I carried a 750ml waterbottle w/ diluted energy mix and 2 GU Energy Gels (used 2 for JHMR and 1 for GT).


  • In my climbing efficiency figure, I plotted my average heart rate and vertical speed (in meters per min) for the individual climbs in both races. Both races, I progressively slowed down (so climb #1 is the far right data point and each successive climb is to the left).
  • I managed to keep my average speed more constant at JHMR where the range of data on the Y-axis is smaller. At GT, I started faster on the first climb and slowed down more by the third (thankfully there we only three!). This is interesting because I felt much stronger on the third (and final) GT climb compared to feeling awful on the fifth (and final) JHMR climb.
  • On both elevation graphs, the x-axis is distance in kilometers but they are very different total different which skews the look of the graph. Also, the y-axis does not start at zero. While the GT race was at higher elevation, JHMR had more climbing.
  • Both races had extremely steep sections. It would be interesting to look at the breakdown of time at each % grade.

One thought on “Race – U.S. Ski Mountaineering National Championships

  • Congrats on your post, I just loved reading everything about your race and I appreciate you listed the necessary gear and the notes on the next race, I fund them quite helpful. I wish you the best of luck and many, many races to come. The page is awesome and I will, most definitely, read your articles, they are some of the most interesting I have ever read.

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