Skimo stands for ski mountaineering, which involves skiing up and down mountains. The modern sport of Skimo racing is essentially the Winter equivalent of a trail running race, but it takes place on skis. If you enjoy trail running, road or mountain biking and other cardio activities, you’ll probably love skimo. Think of it as “fitness skiing” where athletes race both up and down a ski slope to complete a course in the fastest possible time. Sounds extreme? Even though skimo races can sometimes include bootpacking and technical rope work, most racing is held in beginner to expert in-bounds resort terrain. If you like endurance sports and you know how to ski, a skimo race isn’t out of your league at all!
What gear do I need?
For the upcoming Norquay Nights, the mandatory gear is:
- A Backcountry skiing equipment with metal edges (or a splitboard) Nordic touring equipment is prohibited, but you wouldn’t want to ski down a ski hill on those anyway.
- A pair of skins
- A backpack capable of carrying skis (or splitboard)
- A helmet
- A headlamp
For the bigger races in Western Canada, you will have to carry avalanche safety equipment and a little more clothing. The mandatory equipment for Castle Mountain, Steep Dreams, Marmot’s Revenge, Ken Jones Classic and the Whistler Darkside race is detailed here.
How is Skimo-specific equipment different?
You could use your backcountry skis and boots, but it would be like trying to run a marathon in hiking boots. It kind of works, but you’ll be a heck of a lot faster with some light trail runners on your feet.
Skimo skis are designed to get you up the hill as fast as possible, and still let you ski relatively comfortably downhill. Weight makes a huge difference, so the skis are short (160 cm for men, 150 cm for women) and super-lightweight. Race skis weigh usually less than 800 grams per foot, less than half the weight of many regular backcountry skis.
Skimo equipment is very specialized nowadays, and expect somewhere around $1500 to $2000 for skis, bindings and skins. The good news is that Skimo Alberta has 4 pairs of skimo racing skis that you can rent to try them out on a training or on race day. Cost is $20 a day for skis and skins. You will need to use your own backcountry ski boots. Reserve demo skis through this link at SkiUphill. Spry in Crowsnest Pass also rents skimo racing equipment.