COLORADO — The sport of ski mountaineering joins the 2026 Milano Cortina Winter Olympics after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) unanimously approved its addition.
The sport has grown in popularity over the past 20 years, but it’s always been a big deal here in Colorado. The state is home to the Colorado Ski Mountaineering Series and there are groups scattered around Colorado dedicated to training youth and athletes in the sport.
Ski mountaineering begins with athletes traversing the terrain with their equipment.
“Skinning uphill, so put adhesive skins under your skis to walk uphill. Then you lock the binding, remove the skin, and then ski downhill,” said Joe Reesi of the Colorado Ski Mountaineering Series.
Athletes translate what they do in the backcountry into a competitive environment.
“The descents are demanding. These are your double runs of black diamonds, ungroomed surfaces. They go 50, 60MPH on ungroomed sections of trail.
The Colorado Ski Mountaineering Series runs races across the state and works with the National Ski Mountaineering Association.
“Last weekend I put one on Telluride. It was over 10,000 feet of climbing and 7 different climbs and descents,” said Reesi. “What we took here and built as a hotbed for ski mountaineering competition and to be able to compete against the best in the world. And being able to select a team in the next few years is extremely exciting. »
Ski mountaineering is a competitive winter sport that includes several formats of individual, vertical, team, sprint and relay races. The Olympic sport will include 24 men and 24 women as part of the overall quota of 2,900.
At the 2026 Winter Games, ski mountaineering will consist of five events. There will be two men’s events, one sprint and one individual, one sprint and one individual women, as well as a mixed relay event.
“Anything related to ski mountaineering definitely requires a lot of training. You are actively and constantly moving through the backcountry, so make sure you have the strength to be able to get up where you want at a brisk pace. And then come down safely,” said Shane Leva, General Manager of Mountain Chalet.
Mountain Chalet in Colorado Springs is your one stop shop for all things outdoor adventure. They have specialized equipment for ski mountaineering and just about any backcountry sport you might be interested in.
They run a free avalanche beacon course to help train and prepare people before heading into the backcountry for ski mountaineering or any other adventure.
The Colorado Ski Mountaineering Series hosts the final race of the season in Colorado on Sunday, April 3. It will be a team race held in Breckenridge. Places are open to participate and everyone is invited to come and watch the race.