A virtual meeting will be held on 22 November 2023 to discuss athlete selection and qualification for the 2026 Olympic Games.
With Ski Mountaineering Racing (SkiMo Racing) being included in the 2026 Olympic Games (Milano-Cortina) for the first time in recent history, the sport’s National Governing Body, the British Mountaineering Council (BMC), is looking for expressions of interest from potential athletes for the Olympic Games as well as other European or World stage races.
The eligibility criteria for competition has been released by the International Ski Mountaineering Federation (ISMF) and approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). As such, the BMC will hold a ‘town hall event’ virtual meeting on 22 November to discuss athlete selection and qualification.
SkiMo has its roots in the Winter Olympics of 1924, held in Chamonix, in the guise of the Military Patrol competition. Teams of Alpine troops competed against each other skiing through the mountains and with a rifle shooting competition at the end. Following three further Olympic iterations the sport evolved into Biathlon - a Nordic skiing discipline, and SkiMo continued in the form of the long distance races such as la Patrouille des Glaciers and the Trofeo Mezzalama. In 2026 the circle will be closed with the re-introduction of Ski Mountaineering into the Winter Olympics.
SkiMo Racing is rapidly gaining popularity, both domestically and internationally. In the UK, this is expertly enabled and championed by the SkiMo Scotland series.
The ISMF organises the World Cup series of races across several international venues each season, and it also organises the European and World Championships during alternate winters. The ISMF races range from the super short (10 minute sprint), through to several hours in the individual or team races. Additionally there is the La Grande Course series of six traditional team races held over a two year rolling cycle. Some of these are multi-day stage races across whole mountain ranges. Frequently one of these races is chosen as the ISMF Long Distance Team Championship for that particular season, and with their historical significance these races can be considered to be the Monuments of the sport. In 2024 La Patrouille des Glaciers will be the ISMF Long Distance Team Championship.
ISMF Race Formats
Harking back to the Military Patrol, the Team Race is the most traditional form of the sport. Teams comprise two or three athletes, of the same sex and same age category for ISMF rankings. This is a spectacular event that takes the athletes to the mountain tops, and must include at least three ascents and descents. Long distance races include even more.
Races frequently traverse mountain ridges and athletes may be required to utilise ‘via ferrata’ type safety harnesses and strops, and possibly crampons, to ensure safety on these ridges or during the ascents of difficult couloirs. Descents are off-piste. A standard team race will last a maximum of three hours and cover a total height gain of around 2,000m, whilst some long distance events may be based on much greater distances and over more than one day.
This takes elements from the team race, but is based on the single individual athlete. Again, there will be at least three ascents and descents.
As with the team event, there will also be a section on foot with the skis carried on the rucksack, roped sections and sections climbed using crampons. Races normally last from one and a half to two hours and cover a total height gain of up to 1,900m.
As with the team events, the race start is a mass start of all the athletes.
This is a mini Individual race, combining the essential ski mountaineering features and techniques with an ascent on skins, part of the ascent on foot with skis on the rucksack and then a single descent from the top.
As the title implies, this is a very fast race, and is based on completing the total course in approximately three minutes for the fastest racers. The total ascent and descent is about 100m, with athletes starting and finishing in almost the same point. The first round is an individual qualification with athletes starting one after the other every 20 seconds, after the qualifying round athletes face each other in heats of six.
Although the ascent is usually on well packed snow, the descent is supposed to be fun and can be off-piste, with gates and with small jumps.
The relay takes place in a team of three or four competitors, and may be mixed, but with members of the team carrying out the ‘circuit’ one after the other, with each athlete racing once.
Again, this is quite a fast event, with each circuit lasting about 15 minutes, including two ascents and descents, and a short section with the skis on the rucksack.
The total height gain is about 150-180m.
The vertical race is an uphill only event.
It is a race to the top in a single long ascent on skins, and should not exceed a height gain of more than 700m.
The events for the Milano-Cortina Olympics will be the Sprint and the Mixed Team Relay
An enthusiastic group of athletes from within the SkiMo community, in conjunction with the sport’s National Governing Body, the BMC, has been established with the aim of further developing the sport and preparing UK athletes for international competition.
The current members are:
Andy Bryce (Co Chair)
Paul Ratcliffe (Co Chair)
Ursula Moore (Athlete Advocate)
Di Gilbert (SkiMo Scotland Representative)
Lorraine Brown (BMC/GBClimbing Representative)
Stuart Younie (Mountaineering Scotland Representative)
Pete Davis (Coaching Advisor support Pathway Development)
Kevin McHugh (Sport Scotland)
The aim of this group is to put together an athlete development process, coaching pathway, a robust selection process and further advance the sport. The steering group will seek to create a structure that allows the sport and its participants to flourish, with a stretch aim of selecting potential athletes for Cortina in 2026.
In order to do this, the group need to know who might be interested in competing in the coming seasons, and in Cortina.
CALL TO ACTION
We are seeking to expand the initial steering group, by asking for volunteers to join us in this endeavour.
A virtual town hall event for interested athletes, supporters and those interested in supporting the committee in its endeavours to develop the sport, will be held at 18:30 on 22 November 2023.
Please contact email@example.com for further details before the above date.
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