With the first randonee race in the COSMIC series coming up on December 10, race fanatic and SCARPA athlete Bryan Wickenhauser, a member of Team Crested Butte, gives us a taste about what rando racing is all about:
The Colorado Ski Mountaineering Cup (COSMIC) started in 2007 with a race at Sunlight Ski Resort by Pete Swenson. Since then it’s attracted the “light and fast” crowd from trail running, mountain biking, nordic skiing and of course backcountry skiing.
So what are the fundamentals of a course? Typically a ski-mountaineering course in North America will have 3,500 to 5,000 ft of elevation gain/lost over nine to 14 miles. Within that course profile, an athlete will encounter three to seven skin transitions, a possible boot pack and big-time, screaming-fast descents, all on a marked course. We are starting to see race venues move to the backcountry (like CS Irwin or the GoreTex Elk Mountains Grand Traverse), but due to logistics and permits it’s easier to get an event off the ground at a ski resort.
The races that make up the COSMIC series, which SCARPA helps sponsor, play a major role in infecting skiers with the fascination of racing. About 90 percent of participants are normal backcountry enthusiasts who set a high goal and continue motivating themselves for a period of two years or more. I can see the enthusiasm in their faces.
As an organizer of the first stop on the COSMIC tour (CS Irwin, coming right up on Dec. 10), it’s not easy to combine true adventure and absolute safety. Races like the GoreTex Elk Mountains Grand Traverse are able to achieve this, and because of that, attract both professionals and amateurs alike.
I hope that in the future, many organizers will understand and play their cards this way (true adventure and safety). I think we are still in the evolution phase here in North America.
In recent years, the access to lightweight ski-touring equipment from industry leaders like SCARPA, Ski Trab and others has improved tremendously and many people have become interested in the sport. At some point, these people, even if just for fun, will venture to participate in a race. Many of them are bound to get hooked. That’s because ski mountaineering racing makes you happy, irrespective of what place you finish. I have yet to see an unhappy skier cross the finish line. It’s this very combination of a slow, easy ascent and rapid descent that grips you.
The COSMIC Series motivates me to get up even earlier and also train until late in the evenings….chasing powder with friends! To see the race schedule for the coming season, click here.