European Ski Mountaineering Championships 2016: Les Marecottes

Posted by Peter Burnside on 02/03/2016
Feeling the burn in the individual race. Photo: ISMF

Competition is fierce in the European Ski Mountaineering Championships – only the “Crème de la Crème” of the ski mountaineering fraternity are attracted to this action-packed event. Ben Bardsley brings us this year’s adrenaline-filled report on the three-day event in the Swiss Alps from 5-7 February.

After a week of extremely mixed weather, we were blessed with absolutely optimal conditions for the first day of the European Championships in Les Marécottes, Switzerland. Avalanche risk had been high and so the course had been off-limits to racers before the event.

Our British Men’s Team boasted a really impressive turnout. It was great to see some of the ‘Old Guard’ – Jon Morgan, Carron Scrimgeour and Ivor Ligertwood – in addition to some more recent recruits – Ben Bradford, Colin Thornton, Chris Shand, and John Houlihan. We took advantage of the fact that the race doubled up as a World Cup and thus had not restriction on number of competitors. It was great to be able to give so many the opportunity to race at this level. An added bonus was, that being a World Cup, it attracted a few more countries … levelling the playing field somewhat!

The races were staged over three days – Friday 5 February, Saturday 6 February and Sunday 7 February. 

DAY ONE

The first race day dawned with clear blue skies and not a breath of wind. This was in such contrast to the previous weekend when the British Championships had been cancelled owing to winds in excess of 100 mph.

First up was the individual race: four climbs and descents, with portage sections on steeper ground; the total height gain was 1620m.

As ever, the pace was furious off the line. The Brits were all fairly tightly packed and close to some notable racers from countries with reliably snowy winters.

After nearly melting in the heat for nearly two hours, I was delighted to lead the Brits home and be less than 30% behind the winner. Our team packing was tight and I was closely chased down by UIAGM Guide Ben Bradford, Chamonix A and E Consultant Carron Scrimgeour, and Doctor and Guide Jon Morgan. I was beginning to feel somewhat under qualified in such high-ranking company! The four of us comprised the British “European Team” for this event.

Next man in was Chris Shand, who has been living in Areches this winter and training with some of the world elite of Ski Mountaineering – notably William Bon Mardion and Xavier Gachet. Colin Thornton, an experienced Ultra runner resident in Chamonix had the misfortune of snapping a pole on the first descent, but persevered with only one for the whole of the second climb until he managed to scrounge a replacement. John Houlihan experienced a literal “baptism of fire” as temperatures soared and he was retired as the avalanche risk rose to unacceptable levels.

Many thanks to Ivor Ligertwood for providing us with some youngsters from Aiglon College – Jake Doyle, Jack Wright and Patrick Oliver all represented GB in their respective categories. “Chapeau” and well done boys.

DAY TWO

On the second day of the Championships it was the vertical race – 500 meters vertical height gain of pure sufferfest. It was a time trial this year, with racers starting every 20 seconds. Chris, John and I were the only GB starters.

We raced hard and well, but were no match for the likes of Kilian Jornet, who romped home with a 30 second lead; it was quite amazing to see the man in action.

DAY THREE

On Sunday it was the sprint race – which is the most likely event to make it in to the Olympics; effectively a ‘Skimountaineering meets Boardercross’ race. Athletes compete head-to-head round a course of only three to four minutes duration. During that time there are climbs with kick turns, portages, slalom descents and some skating.

Many thanks to Graham Friend, Chris Shand, Jack Wright and Partrick Oliver who flew the flag in this extremely competitive event. Graham competed under particularly difficult conditions, only being provided with his race number and timing chip minutes before his allotted start time.

I greatly appreciate the efforts of all the Brits who competed, making some massive efforts to be with us flying the flag on the day. Thanks also to the BMC without who we could not compete and also Yogi Tea, Lyon Equipment / La Sportiva.

WATCH: A video of the individual race in Les Marécottes

Alpiniski: Campeonato de Europa 2016 en Salvan-Les Marécottes.

¡Increíble jornada y por tanto increíble video resumen! De mano de Corriols de Llum. Millet España, BUFF, 226 ERS ISMF World Cup Ski Mountaineering #Alpiniski2016 #SkiMo

Posted by Esquí de Montaña FEDME on Friday, 5 February 2016

BRITISH SKI MOUNTAINEERING CHAMPIONSHIPS 2016

On 27 February, the delayed British Championships in ski mountaineering finally took place on the Scottish mountain of Glencoe. We're still waiting for the report, but the results of the race are below.

RESULTS

Men’s
1st Finlay Wild
2nd Ben Bardsley
3rd Tim Gomersall          

Women’s
1st Gabriel Lees
2nd Rosalind Martin
3rd Deborah Morgan


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