Summit County area locals forming ski mountaineering club |

Summit County area locals forming ski mountaineering club

Sebastian Foltz
Summit local Doris Spencer approaches Arapahoe Basin's summit hut after covering roughly 1,700 feet of elevation game during an early morning Alpine touring session with long-time partner Kent Willoughby. A group of four Summit locals recently founded the Summit Skimo Club in an effort to promote alpine touring as a growing sport in the county.
Sebastian Foltz / |

Ski mountaineering, alpine touring, ski touring, randonee skiing, skinning or, in the snowboard world, splitboarding — they are six descriptions for what’s essentially the same thing: human-powered uphill travel in the mountains. Whether it’s aggressively climbing a steep couloir, 20 or more people racing to the top of a resort slope and back down again, a conditioning workout or a casual touring session in some fairly tame backcountry, there’s no question that more and more people are getting out there and giving it a try.

In fact, SnowSports Industries America — the trade association that tracks ski industry trends — reported last year that touring-related gear was one of the fastest growing markets in the industry.

While alpine touring has been popular in Europe for decades, it’s relatively new in the states, but on the rise toward mainstream in the winter sports realm. In recent years, resorts have had to work on policies to accommodate the growing community.

Continuing that progress toward growing the uphill community is one of the goals of the four Summit County locals who recently founded the Summit Ski Mountaineering Club. Avid uphillers Teague Holmes, Joe Howdyshell, Jon Low and Ram Mikulas decided they wanted to get more people out to enjoy uphill, human-powered skiing.

“It’s been such a fun, joyful part of our lives,” runner and ski mountaineer Holmes said of their inspiration behind forming the group. “I want to share this type of skiing with other people.”

Part casual social club, part race training and conditioning group and part youth team, the SkiMo Club is a new effort at expanding the ski mountaineering community in Summit County.

Holmes said there’s something for everyone in the club’s inaugural winter. The initial plan is for a combination of youth training sessions, low-key adult touring sessions and ski mountaineering race training.

“We’re in the early stages,” Holmes said of the group. “It’s going to change with the needs of the community.”

For now, the group has plans to organize casual alpine touring sessions for all ages and experience levels on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Holmes said the idea is for like-minded touring enthusiasts to connect and find new people to get out in the backcountry with.

The weekend sessions will stick to less aggressive, avalanche-safe terrain geared toward a variety of skill levels.

“We’re focused on safe uphill skiing and there’s lots of places we can go,” he said, explaining that the group will alternate locations for its touring sessions.

During the week the group also has plans for more workout-intensive race training sessions for both youth and adults.

The plan is to organize youth training sessions on Wednesdays after school, with the goal of getting a team together to compete at races later in the winter.

The group also plans to host adult training sessions at 6 a.m. on Tuesdays or Thursdays with a more aggressive focus toward AT race training for competitions like the Arapahoe Basin randonee series and other regional competitions.

Holmes said that the schedules are subject to change later in the winter.

Weekend sessions will be open to anyone who’s interested. Those who continue to come out will be encouraged to join as members. Members will receive updates on group functions and have access to the more focused, coached, race training sessions. Holmes encouraged anyone interested to come out and give the group a try.

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