1. U.S. Ski Mountaineering Championships in Jackson, WY. This race is on the list because it's a classic. It has been around for a long time and was one of the original Life Link series races (the series that got skimo started in the US). It is the U.S. championships, the field will be deep, you'll see a multitude of men in tights, and you're guaranteed to see the future 2012 champ. Also, historically, the course has been a real challenge, climbing nearly 6,000 vertical, which includes an ascent up an aluminum ladder up Corbett's couloir. Hopefully, that will be possible this year. I'm going to this race, hoping that I can ski the whole race without having to stop and rest on the DH. My mission will be accomplished if I could just do that. And if starting off the whole skimo season by racing a national championship race isn't enough, you can race at Targhee the next day.
2. 2012 ISMF North American Championships in Crested Butte, CO. This race is one of two new races in Colorado. This is a not-to-miss event because, well, it's not just the US Ski Mountaineering Champs, but it's the North American Skimo Champs. My guess is that the birth of this race was spawned by a desire to bridge the northern border and to include our Canadian friends, some of whom are quite fun, funny, and fast. Don't go to this race, hoping to race and dominate some Mexican, Arubian, Bahamian, Haitian, Trinidadian, or Puerto Rican skimo racer. In fact, I wonder if they even got the invite????? Hello? Are you there? All North Americans, please come! Because, after all, it is the North American Skimo Champs. I've heard that the course is going to climb to the top of Mt. Crested Butte, and that this climb will involve fixed ropes, via ferrata, and an ascender (just one). Because skimo is not already gear-intensive enough, by participating in this race you will have a reason to get even more gear.
3. Teva Mountain Games in Vail, CO. This is the second new race in Colorado. What's intriguing to me about this race is that there is an "Ultimate Mountain Challenge" competition that involves a 10k skate race, a traditional skimo race, and then an uphill drag race with your "traction" gear of choice. The person with the lowest cumulative time wins. The skimo race will likely comprise at least 50% of the cumulative time, which is a bonus for a skimo racer like me. I think I can get through the uphill drag race in either snowshoes or skis. The skate part worries me. I need a skating lesson. Adding to the allure of this race is the fact that there is a nice-sized purse. Here is a video promoting the race:
4. Power of Four in Aspen, CO. The attraction of this race is that it's big (almost 13k vert), long (27 miles), and brutal. And it's unique because it's a teams race. Oh, and it takes you on a beautiful backcountry glisse between four (hence the Power of Four) of Colorado's prime resorts, Snowmass, Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands, and Aspen. Here is an article reporting on last year's race; and here's my report on Brian Harder's and my race.
5. Wasatch Powder Keg in Brighton, UT. Like the US Champs, this race is a classic as well. It has changed venues over the years, but this is the only US race to have been on the World Cup circuit. A few years ago, the top skimo racers in the world visited and scorched through the Wasatch mountains. This year, the course will be big, climbing 6,500 vertical feet. Of course, I'm slightly biased, since I'm from the Wasatch. But for good reason: three of the events listed above are in Colorado. They look to be great events, and they are deserving of all our support. But hopefully in the future, Utah can be the host of some great events as well. To that end, take note that a Wasatch Citizen Skimo series has been launched with the first race being held on January 12, 2012 at Brighton. This isn't as organized or official as it sounds, but it will provide an opportunity for racing and growth in Utah. You can get information on this here.
Hope to see you out there!