Frisco launches beginner-friendly ski mountaineering series | SummitDaily.com

Frisco launches beginner-friendly ski mountaineering series

Have no idea what skimo is? Neither do most folks.

For years, skimo (aka ski mountaineering) has been spreading like wintery wildfire across Europe. It's a cross between Nordic ski racing, backcountry skinning and winter mountaineering, complete with the cardio burn that trail runners can't quite find once the snow falls. But, for one reason or another, it hasn't caught on in the U.S. — until recently.

"I just think this sport is really fun, just raw fun," said Jon Lowe, a skimo convert. "I think part of the growth is attached to the growth of ultra-running and trail running in mountain communities. Both of those have become more professional, and skimo isn't too far behind now."

Last season, Lowe and a local group of avid ski mountaineering athletes formed the Summit Skimo Club to give novice and veteran athletes an introduction to the sport. The timing couldn't be more perfect: Skimo might be part of the Winter Olympic roster for the first time in 2022, which means there's plenty of time to build interest among young, talented locals.

"For me, I just wanted to increase access to racing for youth, but it can be more than that," Lowe said about the club's origins. "There's a race focus and a youth focus, but this is an all-ages club and all-abilities club. We recognize that the United States is well behind Europe in terms of involving the youth in the sport, so we subsequently could improve a lot in terms of our international presence."

That's where the brand-new Frisco skimo series comes into play. On Nov. 19, Lowe and a collection of club members will host a free (yep, free) introductory session at the Frisco Adventure Park. The session begins at 6:30 p.m. and will give interested attendees of all ages a bird's-eye view of the sport: Gear basics, race basics and training tips with a few of Summit's skimo all-stars, including club co-founder and U.S. national team member Teague Holmes. Oh, you'll also get drinks and finger foods.

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"This first session is a great way to window shop skimo, see if you like it," Lowe said. "This is all about spreading the word. These events will be inclusive — not too fast or too Lycra."

Beyond the intro

Lowe hopes the free intro session will draw people to the remainder of the Frisco series, with two sessions in December and a series-ending race on Jan. 27. The remaining three sessions cost $15 apiece or $40 for the entire series. The two December sessions are split between indoor and outdoor instruction, including free demo gear for complete newcomers.

Even if you're a lifelong Nordic skier, Lowe and club vice president Ram Mikulas say skimo equipment is like nothing you've been on before. It's how Mikulas fell in love with the sport.

"I had a tele setup that was nice and heavy, so when I borrowed that mountaineering gear for the first, it was just so light," said Mikulas, who caught the skimo bug a few years ago when friends took him up Keystone after dark. "That really turned the corner for me."

Since then, Mikulas has competed in races across Colorado and the region, including the events in Utah, New Mexico and Jackson Hole. The race scene continues to grow every season, but, like mountain biking and endurance running, it can be intimidating for novices. Again, that's where the skimo club comes into play. The intro sessions are low-pressure venues to see if you like it or hate it, without the cost of equipment and race fees.

"You don't need to be interested in racing to join our club or come out," Lowe said. "Our background is race inspired, but one of the biggest reason to get involved with the series is just to try out the demo equipment and apply it to the way you like to ski."

For session two on Dec. 2, all participants will need to have race equipment and wear appropriate clothing. (There will be limited demo equipment if you need it.) This session will cover race preparation, tactics and technique. The race preparation discussion will cover nutrition/fueling and ski tuning/waxing. The technique instruction will include an indoor discussion on how to downhill ski on light skis and outdoor practice with transitions and kick turns.

Session 3 also requires equipment. This session digs deeper into techniques and solo racing, as well as team racing tactics. There will also be a via ferrata and ascender demo, plus information on the Colorado Ski Mountaineering Cup and United States Ski Mountaineering races in Colorado.

Frisco ski mountaineering series

Nov. 19 — Free intro session, 6:30 p.m.

Dec. 2 — Race prep and basics, 6:30 p.m.

Dec. 16 — Technique and team racing, 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 27 — Race day, 6:30 p.m.

All events are sponsored by the Summit Skimo Club and take place at the Frisco Adventure Center. Cost is $40 for the final three events or $15 per event, including the race. The fee includes a drink/beer ticket and raffle ticket. If you need to borrow demo equipment, arrive at 6 p.m. before each session (5:30 p.m. on race day) for fitting. For more info, see http://www.summitskimo.com.