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Castle Mountain to host ski mountaineering event

Castle Mountain Resort at Pincher Creek hosts its first ski mountaineering event Saturday, Jan. 12.
Organizers welcomed the addition of an event at Castle Mountain to the annual schedule.
“Part of the mandate of Ski Mountaineering Competition Canada is to grow the sport so any time we can get a new partner on board to host an event is a great thing,” race director Brent Harris said.
Ski mountaineering, also known as skimo or randonnée racing, combines skiing and mountaineering skills.
Recreational and youth competitors will cover 10 kilometres with an elevation gain/loss of about 3,800 feet.
The competitive course covers 12 kilometres with an elevation gain/loss of 4,800 feet.
“The course truly features all of the terrain and competitors will circumnavigate the entire lease area of Castle Mountain,” Harris said.
“Both courses are physically challenging,” Harris said.
The recreational course is designed for people who want to try the sport for the first time. Participants should be physically fit, have some ski touring experience and the required kit, which includes a pack, avalanche beacon, snow probe, shovel and extra clothes.
Ski mountaineering involves racing over steep alpine terrain using ski touring gear, gaining and losing elevation past a series of checkpoints set along ridges and peaks.
Skimo courses often require skinning up snow slopes, scrambling with the skis on packs and downhill technique. Some technical courses may require boot packing or traversing fixed lines.
The course is completed carrying full gear from a mass start on the valley floor in typically less than three hours. The winner is the one who crosses the finish line first so results are determined by time.
“Racers will need to be physically fit. This is not the kind of thing a couch potato could undertake and survive without a coronary,” Harris said with a laugh. “The recreational division is for those who want to try the sport for their first time.”
Routes are marked and the techniques to employ are specified at all points on the courses.
Volunteers are posted at checkpoints and transition areas to assist competitors. Harris said the event puts a premium on the safety of participants.
“Skimo volunteers require a special skill and experience set,” Harris explained. “They need to be experienced ski mountaineers with all the know-how and kit required to travel safely in the back country and to assist someone who may require assistance. They stand outside for the duration of the race and are a critical component of any skimo race.”
Participants are expected from the lower mainland of B.C., Golden, Revelstoke, Fernie, Calgary, Lethbridge, Beaver Mines, and Pincher Creek.
Members of the national skimo team will take part since all races count towards seeding for the world championships next month in Europe.
Harris said since this is the first skimo event at Castle Mountain it is difficult to predict how many people will take part. He has budgeted for 30 but notes more than 60 have competed in other events.
Register in advance at officemanager@alpineclubofcanada.ca or by calling 403-678-3200 ext. 108. You can also register on race day at Castle Mountain.
A course and technical briefing for racers gets under way at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11 and 8 a.m. Saturday with the race starting at 10 a.m.
Volunteer course and rule briefings are at 8:30 p.m. Friday and 8:30 a.m. Saturday.
The briefings take place in the Castle Day Lodge.
For information or to volunteer contact Brent Harris at btharris@telus.net.

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