Do you look at downhill skiing and say, “That’s good, they’re taking a ski lift up the mountain”? If so, ski mountaineering is for you. And in four years, you can see it at the Olympics.
Ski mountaineering, or skimo to its followers, is coming to the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. It’s a lot like downhill skiing, except the athletes start the race by climbing to the top of the mountain on their own.
The climb naturally takes up most of the run and includes cross-country and hiking sections as the snow gets deeper and rougher.
After this grueling training, it may seem like a treat to ski downhill. Not always in skimo, however. The downhill sections can be tougher and less groomed than the well groomed courses of downhill skiing. The result is more like off-piste skiing, almost discovering new trails in the backcountry. After all, a typical slalom course has no rocks and boulders to navigate, or varying snow depths.
As in triathlon, transitions are important in skimo. Athletes quickly remove, replace or adjust their skis several times during a race.
The 2026 Olympics will host five ski mountaineering events. In the sprint, skiers go up a mountain and then back down, maybe only 100 meters each way, and the race is over in minutes.
The individual race is the event you’ll want to see, a grueling hour and a half that includes at least three ascents and three descents.
The fifth event will be the new favorite of the Olympic Games: a mixed relay.
Why is ski mountaineering added to the Italian Olympics? Probably because Italy is probably the best in the world in this area. The Swiss and the French could also compete for medals.