The Arapahoe Basin Ski Area will host a ski mountaineering racing event this weekend that will be the first of its kind not only for Summit County, but the United States as well.
The events of Friday, Saturday and Sunday at A-Basin will serve as the official qualification of the American Ski Mountaineering Association’s national team for the March World Championships of the International Ski Mountaineering Federation in Villars sur Ollons, in Swiss.
The event will also be the first-ever federation Pan American Cup series race while double serving as a United States National Cup series race.
In total, more than 100 runners from the United States and Canada are expected, said Summit County local Ram Mikulas, one of the main event organizers and president of the US Ski Mountaineering Association.
âIt kind of slowly built up with the opportunities we’ve had working with the US Ski Mountaineering Association and the ISMF,â said Mikulas. âWe are excellent partners with A-Basin. And youth participation is expected to be the highest of any race ever in the United States.
The event will begin on Friday evening at 4:30 p.m. after A-Basin stops operating its elevators for the day. A vertical race will start with a female start at 4.30 p.m. and a male start 10 minutes later. The vertical run will require skimo runners to strip to climb about 1,600 feet of front pitch at Pool A. Mikulas said he expects the best to finish in under 30 minutes.
The top four Americans in five different age categories will win the right to represent the United States in the vertical race in March in Switzerland. The race divisions for Friday’s vertical competition and Saturday’s individual competition include Cadets (15-17), Juniors (18-20), Prospects (21-23), Open (21+) and Masters (45+).
Saturday’s individual race, scheduled to start at 7 a.m., will qualify the top two Americans in the men’s and women’s divisions for the March World Championships, with the other two spots being allocated at a skimo event on 5 and January 6 at the Sunlight Ski Area near Glenwood Springs.
Saturday’s long individual race will require skiers to complete several ascents and descents on Basin A terrain totaling just under nine miles and approximately 4,500 vertical feet of elevation gain. The individual race will also require runners to complete four hikes with ski boots and a temporary section of rope climbing via ferrata near the new Beavers terrain extension in A-Basin.
âYou wear a harness and lanyards with a shock absorption system,â Mikulas said of the via ferrata part. âYou tie your lanyards into the ropes to make sure that if you tip or fall you are protected. “
For members of the public looking for a less tiring run, there will also be an individual race of 2,500 feet of elevation gain on a short course.
The individual race course will begin with an ascent from the base area of ââA-Basin, near Mountain Goat Plaza, to the top of the front terrain of A-Basin, near the Snow Plume Refuge. Runners will then descend near the base of A-Basin’s Lenawee Mountain Lift before ascending to the top of the front field.
Boot hikes near the western wall of the ski area and the Pallavicini lift will follow, before the runners descend into the bowels of the Pallavicini area. They will then cross from the bottom of the Pallavicini Lift to the ski line connecting Pali to the lower part of Beaver Territory. This is where the riders will end the via ferrata portion at a point just below the base of The Beavers Lift, called “The Bald Spot”.
âWe’ve tried to create a course that we think is representative of the world championships,â said US National Team head coach and Breckenridge resident Joe Howdyshell.
Then on Sunday there will be morning and afternoon International Ski Mountaineering Federation sanctioned youth camps hosted by Howdyshell as well as US National Team athletes. The free camp is open to anyone under 23 and will introduce young skiers to ski mountaineering competition.
All events are open to the public, although registrations for the individual and vertical races close at 3:30 p.m. Friday.
Residents of Summit County are expected to compete for the top spots in the youth and adult divisions. Top Summit County athletes such as Sierra Anderson, Jaime Brede, Nikki LaRochelle and Kate Zander are prime contenders for women’s races.
âThe top of the women’s field is getting more and more competitive and growing,â said Mikulas. âSo we’re really excited about this. “
For runners competing in the Cadet Division, this weekend is a major race leading up to the 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games, which for the first time will feature skimo. Howdyshell said that with the inclusion of the Youth Winter Olympics, the popularity of youth sport has not only increased across the country, but in Summit County in particular. Howdyshell said his Summit Endurance Academy will have 17 young people competing this weekend, although he expects the total number of young people to exceed 40 athletes. Last year, the Summit Endurance Academy trained nine athletes.
âI think this is a super cool opportunity for Summit County in a sport that is growing a lot,â Howdyshell said. âIn a way, organize a race and give back a little to the community and show that we can go fast. “
The weekend’s events will be led by Joe Risi’s Cosmic Race series while Jon Lowe of the Summit Skimo Club led the course design. The second Pan American Cup race of the 2018-19 season will take place later this season in Lake Louise, Canada.
For more information and to register, visit USSMA.org/event.