Breckenridge endurance athlete proves anything is possible in World Cup debut

Ski Mountaineer Brooke Haynes could join Team USA at the 2026 Winter Olympics

Tono Miranda/Courtesy photo
Breckenridge's Brooke Haynes stands with an American flag while in Europe for a series of World Cup skimo races.
Tono Miranda/Courtesy photo

Earlier this month, Breckenridge endurance athlete Brooke Haynes reached a monumental step in her ski mountaineering career. 

Despite growing up in Kentucky, far away from a mountain large enough to trek up, Haynes recently competed in several European World Cup races as a provisional athlete for the USA Skimo team. 

“I didn’t even learn how to downhill ski until I was a freshman in college,” Haynes said.

After learning how to downhill ski in Virginia, Haynes took a ski trip to Breckenridge with her dad when she was about 21 years old. The trip not only sparked a passion for being on skis but also living in the mountains. 

Haynes’ desire to live in the mountains only increased after she graduated from college, taking a job in Switzerland.

“Post college, I went and worked abroad in Switzerland for a program for seventh and eighth graders,” Haynes said. “It was a counselor-type position, and I was able to ski every day for three months. I really fell in love with the small-town mountain lifestyle.”

Haynes would then return to Washington, D.C., where she went to college, and soon after decided she wanted to move closer to the mountains that she had fallen in love with in her early 20s.

“It just wasn’t where I wanted to pursue my passions,” Haynes said about D.C. “I told my boyfriend at the time, now husband, that I wanted to move out West. I didn’t really care where; I just wanted to get to the mountains.”

Haynes moved across the country to Denver before settling in Breckenridge.

Since becoming a Summit County local, Haynes has steadily become more of an endurance athlete, competing in the Breckenridge Road Marathon in 2019 before discovering ski mountaineering as a means of staying in running shape in the winter.

“It was fall, coming up on winter, and my coach suggested that in order to stay in shape for trail running that I should really do skimo,” Haynes said. “I was like, ‘What the hell is skimo?'”

Brooke Haynes climbs at a World Cup skimo race in Europe.
International Ski Mountaineering Federation/Courtesy photo

Much like Haynes quickly picked up downhill skiing, she soon learned about all the ins and outs of ski mountaineering. Inspired by local ski mountaineering athletes like Grace Staberg, Haynes soon fully imprinted herself on the local skimo community, competing in races and striving to reach the level of elite athletes.

“I don’t usually get super starstruck by extreme athletes,” Haynes said. “I have an immense amount of respect and awe for what they do, but I never think that it is unachievable by anybody else, because we are all human. If I work hard enough and am determined enough, I can achieve it. I can get to that level.”

Haynes competed in her first skimo race during the 2020-21 season, and before long, she was finishing as one of the top American athletes at a given race.

At the Nordic Valley Skimo National Cup sprint races back in January, Haynes finished as one of the top Americans across the line in the two sprint races over the two-day event.

Not only were the race results fulfilling for Haynes, but the sprint-race results also drew the interest of USA Skimo because the sprint discipline will be featured at the 2026 Olympic Winter Games. 

With the sprint race being Haynes’ specialty, USA Skimo decided it was interested in flying the Breckenridge local to Europe for a couple of races in order to see how she would compete against some of the best skiers on the World Cup circuit. 

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“They contacted me on a Tuesday, Wednesday, and I left the following Friday for the World Cup,” Haynes said. “It all happened really fast.”

On the first leg of the trip, Haynes competed Feb. 24 in Val Martello, Italy, where she was part of a relay race with Griffin Briley out of Park City, Utah. With Haynes feeling a bit under the weather, the duo managed to place 21st overall, three spots behind Staberg and Jules Goguely, of Ogden, Utah.

Still not feeling 100%, Haynes competed in a sprint race the very next day and placed 46th out of 49 athletes. Feeling more rested and recovered, Haynes competed in a final World Cup sprint race March 2 in Schladming, Austria, where she jumped up four places to 42nd overall in a field of 47 women.

“It was such an incredible catapult to that next level,” Haynes said. “Kind of getting thrown into the deep end is what I needed to fire me up even more.”

Overall, Haynes — who also helps coach local youth skimo athletes through Summit Skimo Club — hopes the experience gives her the fuel to not only be named as an official athlete on the national team but be one of the U.S. athletes traveling to Italy for the 2026 Milano-Cortina Winter Olympics. 

International Ski Mountaineering Federation/Courtesy photo
Breckenridge’s Brooke Haynes competes in a World Cup skimo race in Europe.
International Ski Mountaineering Federation/Courtesy photo

“Not that I walked away from the World Cup thinking that I can dominate these people, but I walked away thinking, ‘OK, I have a lot to work on, but I know what I need to work on, and I think I can do it if I stay focused but don’t take myself too seriously,'” Haynes said. “Focus but fun. Now, I am confident in saying that is definitely a goal of mine — to make an Olympic team.”

With ski mountaineering making its debut at the 2026 Olympics, Haynes is mostly looking forward to honing her skills and hopefully being part of a USA Skimo team that will be ripe with excitement in the lead up to the Winter Games.

“In addition to focusing on my own future results and goals, I also really want to encourage others to find what inspires them — jump in, give it 100%, and don’t be afraid to fail,” Haynes said. 

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