Beginner-friendly ski mountaineering race comes to Frisco Jan. 27 |

Beginner-friendly ski mountaineering race comes to Frisco Jan. 27

Skiers pass by the Nordic center at Frisco Adventure Park during a 2014 race. This year, the Frisco Breski ski mountaineering race debuts at the Frisco Nordic Center on Jan. 23.
Todd Powell / Special to the Daily |

Frisco Adventure Park skimo race

What: The inaugural ski mountaineering race held after dusk at the Frisco Adventure Park, hosted by the town and Summit Skimo Club as the final event in a four-part clinic series for newcomers and veterans

When: Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 6:30 p.m.

Where: Frisco Adventure Park Day Lodge start line, 621 Recreation Way in Frisco

Cost: $15

Registration is available at the day lodge from 5:30-6:30 p.m. the day of the race. A limited number of demo skis and boots are available for competitors beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the day lodge. Online registration is also available online early on race day. To register or learn more, see or call the lodge at (970) 668-2558.

The folks at Summit Skimo Club want everyone to try ski mountaineering at least once. Today is your chance.

Around dusk, organizers with the local skimo club are partnering with the town of Frisco for a beginner-friendly race on the wide-open terrain at Frisco Adventure Park. It’s the final event in a four-part “intro to skimo” series the two groups launched in early December, which began with three technique sessions to prepare curious newcomers for today’s race.

“This is for people who are interested in human-powered skiing without going to a full-on skimo race right away,” said Teague Holmes, a Summit Skimo Club board member and the racecourse designer. “We want people to feel comfortable with this. It will be a race, but it’s really more of a community race, an introduction race. The emphasis here will be on practice and experience on a skimo course.”

The race is open to athletes of all ages and abilities — no previous skimo experience required. On-site registration is $15 and begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Adventure Park Day Lodge, followed at 6:30 p.m. by the race start. The club will have a limited number of demo skis and boots available for competitors. If you need a demo setup, organizers suggest showing up around 5:30 p.m. for fitting and practice.

Along with the requisite gear — skis, boots, poles and skins — Holmes also suggests bringing layers for variable weather and, of course, a headlamp. The race begins after dark and takes place on an outdoor course with no lights, just like recent fat-bike races at Gold Run Nordic Center in Frisco.

From headlamps to demo skis, the entire event is built to be as comfortable as possible, all while giving novices an introduction to the rigors of skimo racing.

“You really want to keep this simple,” Holmes said. “Don’t bring a lot of stuff. Stay as light as possible because you’ll be moving the entire time, revisiting that start line over and over. It’s a good opportunity to practice drops and other strategies you’ll use in a longer skimo race.”

The loop course

Holmes worked closely with other club members to build a course that’s challenging yet manageable for just about anyone. The majority of skimo races are “sprint” events and held on loop courses, much like cyclocross. Winners are determined by how many laps the skiers complete in a set time — say, one hour.

Today’s course will be modeled after a sprint course, but, as an introductory race, the number of required laps might change depending on how many skiers show up. In general, Holmes said each lap at Frisco requires about 400 vertical feet of climbing and should take skiers anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes to finish.

The course runs counterclockwise around the Adventure Park. It won’t head onto singletrack trails at the Frisco Peninsula or other portions of the attached Frisco Nordic Center.

From the start line at the Adventure Park Day Lodge, skiers begin on skins and head slightly uphill toward the bike park jumps. The course then leads onto open glades not far from Highway 9 for the sole bootpack section, where racers must remove their skis and hike uphill through the snow. At the top of the hill, it’s time to clip in, remove skins and enter the downhill portion, what Holmes calls the equivalent of a green.

Holmes might also add a transition stage during the downhill. In skimo, transitions come between skinning and skiing legs, when competitors have to remove skins quickly without unclipping from their bindings. It’s harder than it sounds, and that’s the primary reason organizers want to include a brief transition: It’s something anyone and everyone should know before racing in competitive events, like the winter-long Cosmic Ski Mountaineering Series.

Not only is the loop format perfect for beginners — it’s also perfect for spectators. Skiers pass by the day lodge several times during the race, and the course is much less intimidating than an out-and-back on steep and technical terrain.

“That’s one of the benefits of this loop course: It just becomes more social and spectator friendly,” Holmes said. “People can go at their own pace here and feel like they’re still part of the action.”

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