On Saturday February 9th, 2013, ski-mountaineer racers of all abilities found themselves in Vail, Colorado, for the race at the second annual Winter Mountain Games presented by Eddie Bauer. As part of the Colorado Ski Mountaineering Cup (COSMIC), the skimo event required athletes to skin, ski, and bootpack across Vail Resort. Though ski-mountaineering racing is still considered a niche winter sport, it’s seeing a boom in growth as interest in backcountry skiing continues to increase. We caught up with first-time competitor Danielle Snyder, 22, of Boulder, Colorado, to discus her fourth-place finish, her motivation for taking up ski mountaineering, and her view on why skimo racing is a great way to learn about backcountry skiing.
What motivated you to do the race?
I love to ski, and I have enjoyed the few short skimo races I’ve done in the past. I come from a swimming background so I love that ski-mountaineering races incorporate the cardio with hiking and boot packing. I felt like this race was a great test of myself. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done.
How did you prepare for the race?
I spent the last month getting out and touring as often as I could. I would do quick trips in areas around Boulder. I also did a lot of fast-paced hiking in the last few weeks. I knew that it was important that I work on gaining vertical distance without stopping. I worked primarily on building endurance.
Were you pleased with how you did?
Yes and no. I had really wanted to finish under five hours. (She finished the 4,500-vertical-foot race in 5:27.) I might have made the podium then. But overall, I impressed myself, especially with the downhill portions. I was worried that I would be too tired to charge on the descents, but I was pleased that I was able to get down fast. You really have an opportunity to pass other racers on the downhill, even on such skinny skis.
Do you recommend ski-mountaineering races to first-time competitors?
I really do. It’s so much fun, and you can take it as seriously as you want. It also makes backcountry touring that much better because you learn how to push yourself to the next level. I also feel that it teaches you how to be more efficient in the backcountry when it comes to things like shedding layers, managing your skins, and making the most out of a day in the mountains.
For more info on ski-mountaineering racing and a list of upcoming races for all levels, check out the United States Ski Mountaineering Association.