SkiMo steps up: First Pan American championships to take place at Lake Louise in March | SummitDaily.com

SkiMo steps up: First Pan American championships to take place at Lake Louise in March

U.S. Ski Mountaineering Association president Ram Mikulas (right) skis at the Heathen Challenge ski mountaineering race, held in the backcounty surrounding Sunlight Mountain Resort outside of Glenwood Springs in January.

Thanks to the involvement of the International Olympic Committee, for the first time this year the North American Ski Mountaineering Championships will serve as the International Ski Mountaineering Federation's Pan American Championships.

The inaugural ISMF Pan American SkiMo Championships will take place from March 23-25 at the Lake Louise Ski Resort in Alberta, Canada. Vertical, sprint and individual races are scheduled for senior, junior and cadet categories at the ISMF Championship-level event. The event is one of 10 ISMF events scheduled for next year and will be the only one hosted outside Europe or Russia.

The 2018 Pan American Championship — along with the February ISMF European Championships in Nicolosi, in the Catania region of Italy — will be the highest level ski mountaineering events contested next year. The ISMF World Championships take place every other year and will return in 2019 after they were contested in northern Italy last year.

Ram Mikulas of Dillon, the president of the U.S. Ski Mountaineering Association, said athletes from all over the world will be able to compete in the event in Lake Louise, though only members of North and South American nations will be able to earn podium recognition.

"Because the IOC is now working with the ISMF, they have asked it to be the Pan American Championships and hopefully that does draw some participation from some of the countries in South America," Mikulas said. "We have heard possibly Brazil and Argentina (will take part), and that will be exciting."

U.S. nationals return to New Mexico

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The U.S. Ski Mountaineering Association will host its nationals on Feb. 3 and 4 at Santa Fe Ski Area and at Taos Ski Valley.

Mikulas said the vertical and individual competitions will take place at Santa Fe Ski Area on Feb. 3, while the sprint and team events will occur at Taos Ski Valley on Feb. 4.

The events are part of a two-year agreeement between USSMA and the New Mexico ski areas and Mikulas said next year's event may move to a different location. He added that he expects anywhere from 50 to 100 athletes to compete.