Ski Mountaineering Champs

By Dougald MacDonald ,

Mass start at the Jackson Hole race.

The burgeoning sport of ski mountaineering concluded its race season in North America in late March with two major events, including the first World Cup on U.S. snow. The Black Diamond Wasatch Powder Keg, March 20, brought racers from nine countries to a demanding, 8.4-mile course between Utah's Alta and Brighton ski resorts, with 10,515 feet of total climbing and descent, including some spicy couloirs. Rico Elmer of Switzerland took the gold for the men with a time of 1:34:44, while the Swiss star Christina Favre-Moretti won the women’s championship in 1:56:12. Jeanne Wall from Bozeman, Montana, made a very strong showing, with a fourth-place finish in the World Cup, just over a minute out of the medals. The only North American males racing in this category were Brendan O’Neill from Jackson, Wyoming, and Greg Hill from Revelstoke, B.C., who finished 20th and 22nd, respectively. Just how good are the Europeans? Consider that O’Neill and Hill each won a race in this year’s Life-Link/Dynafit Randonee Rally, the premier ski mountaineering series in North America, and they finished 30 to 35 minutes behind the winner in the Wasatch. A week later in Jackson Hole, the Randonee Rally concluded its five-race season with the North American Championships. Racers skinned up about 6,000 vertical feet in a huge arc around the resort, bootpacking up the famed Corbet’s Couloir with a fixed rope for the nervous, and then plunged back down the mountain to the finish line. Ethan Passant of Crested Butte, Colorado, took the men’s race, and Jeanne Wall was the women’s champ. For the overall Randonee Rally season, the winners were Chris Kroger of Jackson and Polly Samuels of Park City, Utah.

Climbing out of Solitude Ski Resort's Honeycomb Canyon during the Wasatch Powder Keg.

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