The first annual Green Mountain Skimo Camp went off in great style this past Saturday at Bolton Valley Resort. Sixty participants showed up bright and early for a mix of on- and off-snow instruction, gear and technique clinics, and inspiring presentations by some of the northeast’s top racers. Despite low-snow conditions, skiers made the best of the day as they prepared for another long season of uphill skiing and skimo racing in the mountains of New England.
The fun began before sunrise for more than twenty brave dawn patrol skiers who came up to Bolton Valley for an early-morning ski tour. Much like the Bolton Valley dawn patrol skis led by the CTA, this was a “no-drop,” all-abilities tour that took veteran skimo racers and novice uphillers alike through the backcountry trail system and down inbounds trails. Participants reported firm conditions in the backcountry, along with moose and deer tracks, and good edging to carve turns down the mountain. Those who skinned early had flushed cheeks and rosy smiles by the time they arrived at the Nordic Center at 8am!
Meanwhile, dozens of skiers were streaming in to Bolton, coming from as far afield as Massachusetts and New York, Connecticut and Quebec. Skimo is a growing sport in the Northeast, and our Skimo Camp aimed to bring enthusiasts together, regardless of whether they normally ski in the Green Mountains. Along with geographic range, the range of abilities also made Skimo Camp a diverse group. Some participants had years of experience with skimo races under their belts, ranging from Wednesday night Citizen Series races at Bolton Valley to difficult events around New England to European “grande course” races. Others were just starting out as uphill skiers and were excited to learn about skinning, transitioning, and good practices on the hill.
No matter how experienced the skier, Skimo Camp offered a clinic to teach and showcase the necessary skills. At 9am the morning off-snow clinics kicked off with an intro to skimo seminar with yours truly, Scott Berkley, along with a course on planning and training for a skimo-racing season. Following on the split of beginner/advanced tracks, we then had a presentation from Aaron August of Outdoor Gear Exchange on the all-important topic of gear and layering for uphill skiing along with an in-depth study of common skimo injuries and how to avoid them from local physical therapist, Dr. Kevin Duniho.
After a skimo transition workshop led by a group of fast racers, the whole crowd came together late in the morning for an inspirational presentation about the intersection of East Coast grit and Rocky Mountain ski mountaineering: Kevin Duniho and Milan Kubala’s completion of the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse, a 40-mile backcountry ski race between Crested Butte and Aspen. The pair, who finished 19th and were the top “sea-level” team at the March 2017 event, told of skinning through the night on icy sidehills, losing circulation in their hands, and eating nothing more than a couple of energy gels. But Duniho and Kubala also showed amazing photos of dawn light in the Rockies, miles of headlamps stretching out as hundreds of skiers made their way through the mountains, and deep snow layered over the rocky spines of the Elk Range. It was enough to get a Vermonter’s imagination going!
All this talking and learning is sure to work up an appetite, and everybody enjoyed a bowl of chili and cornbread while listening to Ian Clarke, Vermont native an junior member of the U.S. Ski Mountaineering national team, tell about his experience at the World Cup in Italy during the spring of 2017. Skimo racing in Europe is a bit different than it is in the Green Mountain state; not only do participants in European races use ropes, harnesses, and crampons, but they are greeted at the finish lines of events by thousands of excited spectators!
After lunch participants headed out to brave the cold and see if they could find some snow on the hill. Indeed they did, and the afternoon passed in a flurry of fun activities and clinics. Skiers split into three groups to learn about efficient uphill skinning technique, technical downhill skiing on lightweight gear, and the critical skimo transition, which involves putting on and taking off skins in an efficient and timely manner.
Thoroughly chilled and tired out, skiers retreated to the Nordic Center around dusk for a raffle with gear prizes from Skimo Camp sponsors. With snow in the forecast for northern Vermont and lots of great skimo events scheduled for the coming months, the stoke for another season of skiing fast and having fun could not be higher. We hope to see you out there at some Catamount Trail events, including our Tuesday night Skimo Citizens Series at Bolton Valley, and we look forward to another great Green Mountain Skimo Camp in 2018!