Ski Mountaineering (Skimo) involves climbing a mountain on skis or by carrying them and descending on skis using varied ski touring, Telemark, backcountry skiing and mountaineering techniques. A recreational as well as competitive sport, skimo requires a high level of physical ability and stamina along with technical know-how and skills. Enthusiasts enjoy the adventure, variety of terrain, extreme challenges, and pushing limits.
In the mountains, you may find a ‘Netherworld’ … “where pain, grief, joy and exhilaration mix into moments of transcendent beauty”.*
In 2018, ski mountaineers, Hilaree Nelson and Jim Morrison, completed the first ski descent of the 27,940-foot (8,516 m) Mount Lhotse, part of the Everest massif and the fourth-highest mountain in the world. An incredible accomplishment when you consider the extreme challenge of just climbing to the summit of Lhotse (less than 400 climbers have summited Mount Lhotse and at least 20 have died trying), and there have been about a dozen failed attempts to ski down. Video documentary, Lhotse, tells the story of Hilaree and Jim’s extraordinary climb up and ski descent with personal and expert commentary and mind-blowing photography of this “mini-miracle” skimo adventure.
In 2016, Aaron Rice set out to climb and ski 2.5 million vertical feet in the backcountry without using climbing assistance from motorized equipment (e.g., chair lifts, helicopters), challenging the world record of 2 million vertical feet set by Greg Hill in 2010. It’s an epic endurance test as Aaron must chase after snow around the world and ski more than 330 days in order to accomplish his record breaking goal. Watch this amazing journey in the short video 2.5 million, filmed, directed and edited by Tyler Wilkinson-Ray.
Video documentary Follow Through tells the story of skier Caroline Gleich’s motivation and determination to ski the 90 difficult and insanely dangerous ski mountaineering lines in the backcountry of Utah’s Wasatch Mountains first described by ski mountaineer Andrew McLean in his **1998 book “The Chuting Gallery: A Guide to Steep Skiing in the Wasatch Mountains”.
International Ski Mountaineering Federation – governing body for ski mountaineering competitions
United States Ski Mountaineering Association – sanctions and governs competitive ski mountaineering racing in US, and promotes recreational ski mountaineering. The USSMA website includes how-to information, resource links and videos.
*The Long Road To Lhotse by David Bunker, Tahoe Quarterly, Winter 2018-19
Avalanches are a powerful and deadly threat to ski mountaineers as well as anyone living or playing in snow-covered mountainous areas; therefore, no one should venture out in the backcountry unless up to speed on avalanche safety and accident prevention measures.
You should also watch Adventure Skiing (Free to Watch, On-Demand video documentaries) Adventure skiers travel the world, discovering great beauty and dangers in the mountain landscapes of Europe, Asia, North and South America, and the Middle East.
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Feature photo is courtesy of Robson Hatsukami Morgan/Unsplash, CC0