Monday, January 15, 2018

Skimo FAQ

Can you put your skins on without taking your skis off?

No. Even if you could, it probably isn't faster due to all the fiddling and you have to take your boot out of the binding anyways to change from ski to climb mode. Wait...

Do competitors have to analyze avalanche conditions during the race?

The courses typically take place at controlled ski areas (in North America) or are approved by guides (in Europe) so that competitors from first place to last place just have to focus on racing and not navigation or safety. As well, the course is set in advance. Wait...
Wouldn't that be interesting though, "you can centrepunch that steep, crossloaded, slope if you want and you'll be 5 minutes faster!".

I'm a hotshot nordic skier. Can I try a race on my skate skis?

If your glutes can handle 1500m of herring bone climbing on ungroomed terrain, keep your skis from snapping into pieces, grip hard snow with no metal edges and soft boots, and trust that little metal bar to stay on your boot and in the binding on double black ski terrain then be my guest. But it's a terrible idea. And it's against the rules.

How well are those plastic edges, and boots with no for-aft support doing?
Could you keep up with this guy?

What's with the skin tight suits? Don't they get cold?

Only if you stop moving!

Lausanne 2020 Youth Olympics

If you are reading this and you know a kid born in 2002 or later who is possibly interested in ski mountaineering racing, run, don't walk and tell them that they could represent Canada at the Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne, Switzerland in 2020. Canada gets 2 spots each for male and female. Qualification takes place at ISMF sanctioned races, and unfortunately the last chance in North America before the games is the Ken Jones Classic at Lake Louise this March. MEC and University of Calgary Outdoors Center rent equipment suitable for qualification or if you really want to make a statement, you could demo some real ski mountaineering race skis from SkiUphill . After qualification, there is plenty of time to iron out the finer details of what will hopefully be a longer term pursuit into ski mountaineering racing!

Friday, January 12, 2018

New Scarpa Alien Carbon?

Note the carbon weave on the cuff
What appears to be an updated boot from Scarpa with some features Alien RS. Lower shell appears to be like the current Alien 1.0, but with covered Boa system borrowed from the Alien RS. Does the lower shell maintain the existing internal laid-up carbon fiber internal skeleton or does it utilize the carbon reinforced injection mold plastic of Scarpa's RS boots? The CF reinforced injection mold material is reportedly stiff, but difficult to punch! A Scarpa Alien RS 1.0?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

2018 Castle Mountain Skimo

Sprint Race:

"Well, at least they don't need to bring out the chainsaw". "Does anyone have a real shovel?"

It took some hard work from the organizers and Eric to chisel a skintrack into the slope for the sprint race. But by the time the race started, we had sculpted a good course. And that is something I love about these sprint races. We are given a bit of freedom to add elements to make passing easier and racing fairer (more equitable lines, larger transition areas, wider turns).

I felt like I never really found my limit in my qualifying, quarters, and semi final runs, but was in for a rough awakening in the finals when I found myself off the back at the start. Unfortunately I kept picking the wrong set of skis to follow but eventually worked my way up to the tail end of the group finishing dead last in the heat but still only 6 seconds behind the winner.

Start of Semi Final heat


Chiseled skintracks

Individual Race:

Although only really consisting of 2 climbs, this course has it all: A nice groomer start to spread things out, skintrack with kick turns, ridge bootpack that both ascends and descends. Steep cattrack drag race. Excellent skiing on smooth wind buff and "bottomless" powder.

Nick wasn't here this year to tag team with Eric and string out the group, so I took on those honors. The first uptrack was a little blown in. Noticing that other skiers were coming up only a couple of switchbacks below, I took a pretty solid turn at the front to keep the pace up, but not blow up, focusing on keeping the skins gripping. Eric upped the pace at the top following some downhill ski tracks and continued even through some deep trailbreaking. Mike Foote also got away blitzing the downhill ridge bootpack section. There was a bit of confusion when the bootpack started to ascend again as we didn't regain the ridge, instead sticking to the groomer (and marked with green "skinning" flags) until popping out onto the ridge just before the top of the climb. Mike and Eric were later penalized 1minute for skinning part of this section. High winds on the ridge made things very cold and visibility difficult, but once at the top of High Rustler, it was excellent skiing on wind "groomed" snow. The slower first climb meant that I had a lot left in the tank and I blasted my fastest time ever up the cat road for the 2nd climb. I had heard speculation of horror stories related to the snow quality of the final descent with some rain crust evident at the base of the ski area but I found nothing but dry, bottomless powder. Tiring, but fun skiing on the race skis. Happy with a 3rd place, and gives me a good idea on where I can improve (pacing and descending) in future races.

Lots of good war stories at the end once people started rolling in: A broken ski, faceplants, burning legs on the descent, skin failure, kickturn struggles and bottlenecks, time cuts (with high winds and cat ski area availability a good call by the organizer to ensure the future sustainability of this race...)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Join the club!

In a time before the internet, clubs were the place to meet people, learn about new areas, share stories and improve your skills. Nowadays much of that dialogue happens on Facebook and the forums or in small bubbles. It's one thing to read and watch videos about gear or technique on the internet but another to see it in person. I was at a masters alpine racing club night and I watched some of the better racers carve turns on icy snow around gates that I was having trouble getting an edge in. I know what's possible.

Where would I be if I never showed up to my first Hardcore group rides in high school? It probably would have taken until the introduction of to really learn the trail system in Edmonton. The adventures in this blog would be even less interesting than they already are. I wouldn't know what "fast" really is. I wouldn't know how long a proper ride is. Every day I come across a question on Facebook asked by someone who would benefit from joining a club and have someone take them under their wing.

Group rides. Learn new trails, ride with better riders who will push you to ride faster. Race in midweek and weekend events. Discounts
Hardcore cycling club

Uphill skiing nights at Sunridge on Monday nights. Free rock climbing at Rock Jungle on Wednesday nights. Weekend trips. Discounts
Alpine Club of Canada Edmonton Section

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

2017 Vert 180 report

The warm temperatures and corn snow that greeted us at the Vert180 this year were certainly a welcome alternative to negative temperatures, snowmaking guns, and abrasive snow that have been present in years past. A great track formed throughout the race, though the mellow bootpack seemed more like walking at the beach. I got off to an early lead with Joel from Skiuphill, until Joel abandoned in the first hour. Tyson and Travis were in the Thunderdome battling over 2nd place, but my gap was always at a comfortable level. The last hour never gets any easier, but it seemed everyone suffered the same. I was happy to have a clean race and take the win.

Once again, I was revived by the burger and fries after the race. I now join the exclusive "3 win club" with Travis Brown.While there is certainly a growing number of skiers on lighter skis and boots (and even demo Movement Speed Apple skis from, what I really noticed was a decreasing number of people looking absolutely miserable crawling up the hill on heavy setups. And I saw some blazing fast transitions!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Good advice or questionable advice

Aside from some top 20's and a couple of  medals at Worlds, the Euros still dominate the Americas when it comes to international ski mountaineering racing. We still have much to learn when it comes to training, technique, and equipment. These athletes have been racing and training since they were teenagers, often coming from a "club" system where little tips and tricks are shared around as common knowledge among the group. Spend a couple of minutes talking with a top Spanish, French, Italian, or Swiss (German, Austrian,...) and you probably need to grab a pen and paper to write stuff down! I don't actually have any training plans, but I believe Stano and Eric have packed it with some of these tips.

Dynafit has recently hosted Facebook Q&A's with a couple of their sponsored athletes. What a great opportunity to find out a couple of secrets (or get led on a wild goose chase?). Surprisingly, I was the only one to ask questions related to training, trying to pick up a couple of (not so) secrets. Seriously, nobody else is wondering how to close the gap to the Euro's?

Claudia races mountain bike World Cups in the summer. A good candidate to answer questions about being a year round athlete.

Norway isn't a traditional skimo nation, but Malene is a strong racer.

I would assume Marc developed in a club system
 Or I guess we could listen to American coaches taking shots in the dark with "weighted sled pulls" (I guess it worked for Luke Nelson when he won US nationals a couple of times?) or that cycling has very little place in a skimo cross training. program. Tell that to Quinn Simmons (only American male to EVER win a medal at Skimo Worlds)

 or Anton Palzer

or Remi Bonnet

A post shared by remi_bonnet (@remi_bonnet) on