Jason and Andy Dorais have been racing each other up mountains since they were 5 and 6 years old. They grew up in Indiana, but took frequent family trips to New England and the Intermountain West. Perhaps they were inspired by tales of their father’s mountaineering or perhaps simply by the mountains themselves. Either way, they have pushed the envelope for “fast and light” ski mountaineering, setting speed records on peaks across in the Tetons, Wasatch and Cascade ranges. SCARPA is proud to have them on the athlete team!
When my brother and I moved to the Salt Lake City area around the turn of the millennium, we focused on running track and spent time in the mountains as much as possible. Once we were free from formal training, we shifted our passion full time to climbing, trails and skiing. We thought we were fast but our first successful trip up the Grand Teton took 18 hours and ended with my brother being so exhausted, he fell asleep on the McDonald’s toilet.
Fast forward through the learning curve and we have been able to ski this iconic peak, car-to-car, in just over 5 hours. We are still learning, training and having the time of our lives. Every year is a cycle in which we run to train for ski mountaineering racing and race to apply fitness and bigger skiing goals to the real mountains. Then this fitness carries over to provide a great base for summer running.
Below are a few tips to start off your own training cycle:
Training to move efficiently on skis starts with gaining aerobic fitness, and for us that means running during the sweltering summer until the snow flies. Being busy with work and family, the main challenge is finding consistency, which leads to volume and a good base.
A generic week includes 1-2 hard efforts and a long run with easy mileage/vertical interspersed. For some of our hard efforts, time trialing local peaks provides inspiration specifically for skiing. For those lucky enough to live close to the mountains, find an inspiring peak with 1500’-5000’ vertical gain and see how well you can suffer! A few of our Wasatch favorites are Mount Wire, Grandeur Peak, Mount Olympus, the Pfeifferhorn and Mount Timpanogos.
To make your running more specific to ski mountaineering, find steep trails and run when able and “fast hike” the harder sections. Use poles. Running purists take offense to this but on a trail with a 25 percent grade, poles simply make sense, particularly as preparation for ski mountaineering.
A few more suggestions are to vary the training, make specific goals, find partners and record your efforts. Some goals we chase include breaking our own PRs or the FKT (fastest known time) for a particular peak, racing well in mountain trail races, or establishing or repeating beautiful traverses. Good partners often enhance the experience and provide motivation. Our partners are invaluable. Recording metrics such as total time out running, mileage and vertical gain keep you honest. You can’t hide from the numbers staring out from the computer screen. Either the work was done or it wasn’t. That said, running in the mountains should be fun. While it’s amazing preparation for ski mountaineering, we do it just for the enjoyment of being in the mountains and to find the fulfillment that comes from chasing our summer goals.
Hope to bump into you all out running in the mountains!