Thursday, March 8, 2018

Panorama Steep Dreams

With a week filled with lots of skiing (backcountry, cross country, and ski hill!) it was hard to remember to leave something in the tank for the Steep Dreams races at Panorama. A vertical race on Saturday followed by the individual race on Sunday.

The vertical (equivalent to a hill climb bike race) is probably my strongest discipline, but with some very fast biathletes crossing over I was a little nervous, as there aren't really any special skills required for the vertical. But I put the nervousness behind and set a brisk pace to the top of the first pitch of the vertical that only Nick could match. Joel from Montana closed the gap as Nick broke some trail which deposited us at the bottom of a very steep groomed section. Nick took off straight up the hill while I took a traversing line and had something left at the end to out-sprint Joel for 2nd.
Vertical Start

Individual race start!

The individual race the next day had a novel format with skiers repeating the same climb 3 times going to a different descent each time before finishing with a different climb. This worked great as from my experience helping set the climb after the vertical race, it was a lot of work to put in just one track. While the track was generally at an appropriate gradient, lots of switchbacks and some short steep sections rewarded good skinning technique and penalizing others with wasted energy and skin failure.. Further magnified as the climb was repeated 3 times!

The short, flat/rolling 1st climb followed by a descent presented an interesting scene as the first 2 transitions were more crowded than usual.

The technical skinning was no problem for me, but unfortunately, I lost sight of Nick after the first descent. Let's just say the timed downhill results from this race quantify how much work I have to do! But I held on for 2nd place.

Unfortunately I will miss the Squamish race (which has an astonishing 82 entries as I write this!), but will course set at Marmot and aiming for a good result at the NA championships at Lake Louise at the end of March.

Roam Randonee at the Coldsmoke Festival

This year's edition featured a different course than when I last did this race two years ago with 3 big climbs, the classic "skins-on descent" and a flattish skin out to the descent of West Ymir run. In the grand scheme of the Canadian race series, the race kicks off a stretch of 5 straight weekends of racing!

I did my usual thing and took to the front off the start and with only minor trailbreaking in a couple of cm's of new snow, me and Eric were clear at the top of the first climb. Eric took charge on the 2nd climb picking his route and scanning for course markings, "trading off" to me after overshooting a switchback after which I finished off the trailbreaking which ended up being quite deep in the fan up to the base of the bootpack. I could see a group of 4 below, but fortunately that was as close as they would get. The pace along the flat section towards West Ymir was brisk. I fueled up at the top of the descent and dropped in right behind Eric, only to have him gradually disappear into the distance and leave the skins-on transition before I even got there.

On the final climb, I pushed hard to try to close the gap although it was obvious there were a couple of short spots where Eric did some significant trailbreaking. After pushing hard and running the flat section of the bootpack, I counted my time gap, only to lose another minute on the descent to the finish line. So obviously I need to work on my downhill skiing to be more competitive at this level.

The next race is the Steep Dreams at Panorama, so I decided to take a week off of work to do some skiing.

Monday, February 12, 2018


Every so often, Edmonton gets blanketed with consecutive storms that drop a bunch of snow before sun and wind can get to it. While not the deepest snowpack that I have skied, it was great to be able to take advantage of conditions that don't happen every year.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Fernie Lizard Skinner

The 3rd edition of the Fernie Lizard Skinner went off last weekend with promise of a more interesting course and the addition of a sprint race on the Sunday.

Avalanche conditions in the week leading up to the race were interesting, forcing the organizer to juggle around different course options. In the end, we would be racing to the top of the White Pass chair after a similar "first lap" to the top of the Timber chair as in previous years, before skiing on Stag Leap, which had been closed to the public during the cycle.

The classic groomer drag race remained, but a group of 4 (Me, the Joels, and Tyson Smith) remained at the top of the first climb. I was able to string things out further on the longer 2nd climb and managed to get a gap on the group of Joels. The 2nd descent was interesting with the Megasaurus trail mixed in there, which required some sidestepping in soft snow before a short bootpack partway up Stag Leap.

The conditions on the descents were much more enjoyable than in previous years where we had to battle rain crusts. Although Big Bang was a no-go due to avalanche conditions, we got to enjoy excellent powder skiing on Stag Leap down to the finish. I held on for the win!

Final Start
On Sunday, we sprinted on the short race training pitch by the Haul Back T-bar, although it was tough to watch people skiing powder across the bowl on Snake Ridge. Again, the racers worked the course, making it wider with more opportunities for passing. It is nice being able to provide some input. I had a series of excellent races with dialled transitions and good pacing to take my first sprint finals win! Tyson's sprinting was impressive as he was always able to build up a huge gap before the bootpack but some bobbles in transitions and descents cost him a spot in the finals.

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!

How long is a race?

Typically the first finisher is done in 1hr 30mins to 1hr 45minutes.

No, I mean how far do you cover?

 The target goal for setting a course is more based around elevation gain. 1500-1700m of vertical. The overall distance isn't that important, but is usually 12-17km.

12km? That's it? That doesn't sound very impressive.

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!

Update: Unfortunately, the United States Ski Mountaineering Association found out from their Olympic committee that there will be none of the USOC's limited athlete spots allocated to Skimo. Should the Canadian Olympic Committee follow the same decision, it looks like there wont be any North American athletes selected.

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?