Thursday, January 3, 2013

Transition - a pursuit to compete against the World's best in Ski Mountaineering

This winter I’ll be heading to Europe to train with the best ski mountaineering athletes in the world. This is a dream come true! Thanks to sponsorships from La Sportiva and Gore Tex, I hope to represent the U.S. at the Ski Mountaineering World Championship Febuary 9th – 15th.
Near Ophir Pass, CO
I grew up in Colorado with two brothers to pave the way for adventure, and I’m a mountain girl through and through. I love skiing, I love mountaineering, and I love going fast. Skimo racing was “my sport” right from the start.
I started skiing at a very young age but ended up on a telemark setup in college. When I traded those tele skis for proper, lightweight touring skis, I couldn’t believe how fluidly and efficiently I moved. I loved the soft sound of the skis gliding across the fresh snow and the tranquil presence of the mountains and trees around me. I could cover so much ground in a day of touring that it seemed like the perfect way to explore the mountains. When I’m on my skis I feel like I found that thin place here on earth, that place where you feel like the space between heaven and earth is ever so fine and they blend into one.

I was hesitant to take skimo racing too seriously because I didn’t want to loose the beauty I had found in it. Still, I headed to Jackson, WY in 2011 to compete in the National Ski Mountaineering Championships. The competitive side of my personality wanted to see what I was capable of. I went out with passion and drive and to my great surprise, I won the women’s gold. A month later I went on to race at the World Championship in Italy. At Worlds, I finished top ten in three different races with my highest placement being 7th place.

 I was happy with my performance, but most of all, it was a thrill to ski with the best skimo racers in the world. Training in Europe this winter will give me a chance to continue learning from the pros. I hope to get faster with transitions, downhills, terrain changes, and I am sure I will learn more than I can imagine when it comes to the French culture and language, mountain adventure, and driving really small cars on very narrow roads (luckily, the French drive on the right side of the road).

I’m also excited to be surrounded by a culture built around ski touring. In the Alps it’s common to see whole families touring the mountains on skis. I hope that by being part of a U.S. team and training in Europe, I can help raise the sport’s profile back home—and close the gap between U.S. and European athletes.

I would be thrilled to place top five at the world championship and to podium would be a dream come true. I’ve been training hard to have a shot at doing that, working with my first coaches, from the Mountain Athlete Gym in Jackson, Wyoming. They helped me design a training regimen to increase overall strength and endurance.

Keeping up with workouts has meant getting creative, however! My husband and I spend the summer and fall seasons climbing. We have a goal of becoming the first people as a married couple to climb the 50 classic climbs of North America—we’re 40 routes in and counting.

The climbs themselves have been great for increasing my comfort level on exposed terrain and tolerance for bad weather. It’s harder to fret about a 4-hour rando race after experiencing 35-hour pushes to get up (and back down) mountains. I’ve learned to focus my mental game on the goal instead of fear, and to move at high speeds under all types of conditions. Most importantly, of course, I learned that I like climbing snowy mountains best if I also get to ski down them!

Working training runs into the mix has meant working out under all conditions. I’ve been training on sand, rocky hillsides, grassy slopes, in the middle of cactus deserts, down long sections of remote pavement and, once in a while, a nice dirt single track.
It’s also meant that I’m not always on my A-game for climbing. One week, in Red Rock Canyon outside of Las Vegas, I trained so intensely and ran so much that I could not even hold onto the rock afterward. I took a nap while my husband and my brother climbed—who would of thought you could run so much you couldn't hold onto something with your arms??
But I stick with it because I want to pursue skimo racing with all I have this year. I want to push the limits of what I think I’m capable of and try for a spot on the World Championship podium. This is my chance to travel, to represent the U.S. abroad and leave it all on the course. Who knows where it will take me? Through it all, my goal is to embrace the whole experience. Hopefully one day, after all the races and after my husband and I are done with our climbing project, it will lead into becoming a coach myself. To introduce the young and old into the adventure of ski mountaineering and all that it has to offer.

A Five Part Video Series presented by La Sportiva and GORE-TEX to follow.


  1. Congrats Janelle! Good luck in Europe.

  2. Awesome, good luck with your adventure!


  3. That's so cool, can you tell us what gear you run for those high end races? Boots, bindings, skis? How much do they weigh?

  4. The entire kit is made by La Sportiva. RSR Skis, RSR Binding, RSR Skins, and the Stratos race boot. Its crazy light. We are highlighting them in the next video. Stay tuned.

  5. Inspirational post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, fears and passion. I'm training for a marathon right now and to hear your thoughts about training makes me excited to run tomorrow. :)

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