Skimo Without Spandex: The Rec Division

IMG_2956Let’s consider this post an ode to the recreation division, or props to the every day man who occasionally competes in skimo. I am, of course, referring to ski mountaineering racing, which has become pretty popular in the United States in the past 10 years. This brings up a pressing question as it relates to skimo and spandex: can you have one without the other? For those who are serious and compete in the race division, spandex and skinny skis are pretty much mandatory.

Like a lot of other backcountry skiers who like to tour a fair amount, I have dabbled in skimo racing, though I ski on medium size skis and don’t wear spandex. When I lived in Utah, I competed in the Wasatch Powderkeg a few times and this year I raced once at A-Basin and also at Crested Butte. If I have the choice, I like to compete in the recreational division as it is more laid back and other people are also on reasonably heavy gear.

Now, I love to compete and hope to get a lot more into skimo. But it’s tough to commit and go all in—not just for the time commitment but especially for the price of all of the gear! I already have a few pairs of skis—resort skis, tele skis and free-ride backcountry skis. Can I really justify another?? First world problems.

This year, I raced in the Crested Butte Skimo Nationals in the recreation division—on a freeride Dynafit set up and no spandex (Grand Teton skis, Dynafit TLT 5s from a few years ago and TLT Radical bindings). I was a bit disappointed with the turnout—only 6 other guys in my division. I was also chagrined when a race division guy dropped down to rec division competing on gear a third my weight! He absolutely lit us all up, by a good 20 or 30 minutes (I found out he won a race of 90 people earlier in the year). I ended up getting second place and having a reasonably good time, especially with the exciting finish of skiing down Banana Funnel—2,000 vert of double black diamond skiing. At least for the downhill, skiing on a beefier set up proved an advantage. However, here in lies my point. When I competed in Utah in the rec division, there were at least 30 guys competing and the competition was fierce and fun. There were also great prizes. So why was it so sparse in Colorado?

As I have done some research, there are few races that even feature a rec division in Colorado. When they do have one, the turnout is similar to Crested Butte. Which is a bummer, because I love the vibe of the race in Utah. Now, the issue is that I like to compete yet I don’t want to fully commit to racing. But it’s easy to see where this is heading. With no legit rec division (which means no prizes) I have two options: 1) quit racing 2) move up to the race division and get a lighter set up and train more.

I like skimo a lot so I am considering moving up. But we will see. I would love it if there was a race in Colorado where you could still race casually yet compete against other people who are in the same category with the same weight equipment. Call it an every day man’s ski race where it is actually a fair race. Some day I hope this will happen. And hopefully much, much sooner than the day when I finally break down and buy skinny skis and (eek!) spandex.

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