They go uphill for a long, long time, but not in order to conquer it, but in order to quickly and quickly descend it.
They go uphill for a long, long time, but not in order to conquer it, but in order to quickly and quickly descend it. And not just like that, but on skis and along the most uncomfortable and unprepared slopes. This is the essence of ski mountaineering. To become a champion in this sport, you must simultaneously have a good command of freeride equipment and be an experienced climber. Today, this complex sport is rapidly gaining momentum around the world. And perhaps the main reason for his popularity is that he provides his fans with a completely new form of freedom. Now they do not depend not only on the preparedness of the slopes, but also on the lifts and in general on any ski infrastructure. From now on, they can plow the snowy slopes everywhere and everywhere.
Ski mountaineering is still very young. It originated in the Alps in the 1990s at the junction of skiing, cross-country skiing and mountaineering, and the first world championship in it took place in France only five years ago. Today, world and European championships, national championships and cups are held annually. Competitions usually take place in several disciplines. A vertical race is a high-speed climb uphill along a prepared track with a climb of 900–1100 meters. The best athletes overcome this path in just forty minutes. Individual race – a longer distance (up to 24 kilometers) with several ascents, descents and a general climb up to 2200 meters. There is also a team race when the participants overcome the track together, and the relay race, when three or four people in a team run in turns along the ring route with two ascents and descents. But perhaps the most interesting is the rally. They differ from ordinary competitions in the greater length of the route (up to 60 kilometers), the complexity and variety of terrain. Rally participants are required to climb several peaks, descend steep virgin slopes, traverse snow slopes, pass narrow ridges, overcome rocky and ice sections, and closed glaciers. And all this at the highest speed in non-stop mode. Rally is not part of a series of cups and championships, and they are much older than ski mountaineering as an officially recognized sport. h3. In the footsteps of Ottorino Mezzalama The most famous of these races – Trofeo Mezzalama – has been held in Italy since the 1930s and is named after the famous Italian skier and climber Ottorino Mezzalama. During the First World War, he became famous for putting on the skis several battalions of soldiers responsible for reconnaissance, communications and security in the mountains, and in peacetime he tirelessly explored his native Alps, laying down routes for future ski climbers. Today, Trofeo Mezzalama is one of the largest rallies. This year, more than two hundred teams of three people participated in it (according to the rules, athletes must pass most of the distance in a bunch, connecting with each other with a rope). The forty-kilometer route runs at an altitude of about 4000 meters and above, with a total set of 2800 meters. The best teams overcome this difficult route in 4, 5 hours. The competition is overseen by FISI (Italian Federation of Winter Sports), and the prize amounts here are quite large for a sport such as ski mountaineering. The fastest men’s team receives 4800 euros, women’s – 3300 euros. Special prizes of 1,500 euros are awarded to the oldest and youngest teams. However, in order to compete for these monetary rewards, each trio must make an entry fee in the common piggy bank – 450 euros. h3. Ice Patrol In the calendar of skiing events, Trofeo Mezzalama alternates with the race Patrouille des Glaciers (“Ice Patrol”). These competitions are held in Switzerland every two years. Between the start in Zermatt and the finish in Verbier, the participants cover a distance of 53 kilometers, with a climb of almost 4 kilometers. With a successful set of circumstances, it can be overcome in 6, 5 hours. The usual number of Patrouille des Glaciers participants is about a thousand people in teams of three. For the first time these competitions were organized as military exercises at the turn of 1930-1940. At the end of the next decade, after falling into the crack and the death of three participants, they ceased to conduct. However, almost forty years later, in 1984, the Ice Patrols race was resumed, and now close attention is being paid to security issues. In 2006, the rally was held for the twelfth time. h3. Night Vigils The legendary Pierra Menta race, taking place in the French Alps, can be called the most difficult and grueling: in four days, athletes need to gain 10 thousand meters vertically. According to the participants, “you think about the results only on the first day, and then how to live to the finish.” The Sellaronda circuit race is also a classic of the genre. The distance crosses the Dolomites, passing along the ring route around the huge table mountain Sella. The highlight of this marathon is that it takes place at night. The spectacle turns out to be very spectacular: the ridges of the surrounding mountains are decorated with lively illumination from a long moving chain of headlamps. This year, Italians broke previous records of the route, having overcome a distance of 42 kilometers and gaining 2700 meters in 3 hours and 20 minutes. h3. Fragment of mountain peoples. The first places in the table of world ski mountaineering are traditionally occupied by athletes from alpine countries – France, Italy, Austria and Switzerland. Residents of lowland latitudes who do not have the opportunity to train in the mountains every day, of course, cannot compete with them seriously. Therefore, Russian ski climbers, going to international competitions, while setting themselves more modest tasks – to go the entire distance and, if possible, not be in last place. The only way to achieve serious results in this sport is to go to the mountains. So did the Magnitogore Gennady Sibaev. Recently, he lives in New Zealand and has already managed to become the absolute leader in ski climbing there, having won three of the four stages of the national championship this year. h3. First experiences In Russia, ski mountaineering does not yet have such rich traditions as in Europe. The first Russian Cup was held in the Khibiny, on the Kola Peninsula, in 2004. Mountaineering Federation of the Murmansk region managed to organize competitions from scratch at a very decent level. Last year, an equally well-organized championship was held in the Urals, in Magnitogorsk. For two years in a row, ski climbers competed in Kamchatka during the traditional Avacha marathon. Also, ski-mountaineering starts for the Moscow Cup are held at the Moscow Kant Ski Club. Quite a few athletes take part in the races, but this, of course, is just an easy warm-up compared to large competitions. So far, Russia is only trying to master this difficult but very exciting sport. – * One of the pioneers of Russian ski mountaineering Sergei Romanov and his Camp-Alpindustria teammate Vyacheslav Kurchakov told BOLSHOI sport about the prospects for the development of this sport in the West and in Russia. * _What are you so interested in ski mountaineering for? It’s not in vain that they say that the smart one will not go uphill, especially on skis ._ * Vyacheslav Kurchakov (VK) *: What attracts you? Freedom. You can walk wherever you want on your own, get into beautiful new places, ride the virgin lands and not depend on the lifts, nor on helicopters. And for this you do not need to pay a lot of money. And competition is an incentive to continuous improvement. If we just rode for our pleasure, we would not have such equipment as now. It is lighter, more convenient, more functional. Technologies are developing rapidly and achieve best results. Another important point is getting to know interesting people and other countries. And then, ski-climbing is something like multisport: here there are cross-country skiing, and the passage of ice, rocky sections, and ski slopes. Of course, this is very difficult. Here you need a huge exposure, willpower. “White” people climb to the top by helicopter, contented and full of strength, swim on a clean, fluffy virgin soil. And you with wooden legs barely crawled up the mountain, your tongue on your shoulder, and roll down the mounds, ice, broken tracks. But Western athletes show fantastic results. And after an hour-long rise, they continue to rush up so that they can not keep up with them and with fresh strength. And the slopes, where we stop several times to rest, they pass in one fell swoop. Of course, in order to achieve any results, you need to fully devote yourself to training, quit work, family – then maybe you will enter the top ten. _What are the prospects for the development of Russian ski mountaineering? _ * Sergey Romanov (SR) *: In all mountainous countries, including Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, people start skiing from childhood, there are sections even in many schools. We do not yet have any training system. All Russian ski climbers are self-taught who came from other sports: mountain skiing, cross-country skiing, mountain climbing. The best results are shown by plain skiers – they are much more enduring and stronger than the rest. Among climbers, those involved in high-speed climbing are more likely to climb. But it is very difficult for us, the inhabitants of the plains, to compete with European athletes. VK: In the West, a ski tour is generally very popular. A lot more people are engaged in it than goes to competitions. Even at the mass-customer-oriented Decathlon store, specialized equipment is sold. In the Alps people go to the mountains the same way we go to the forest for the weekend. And our mountainous regions are so undeveloped so far that we can’t talk about any mass character. _Who is involved in conducting competitions in Russia? _ * SR *: We have a ski mountaineering committee, but so far it has not received any funding for conducting competitions. One of the reasons for this is that we, in fact, have no one to participate in them: there are almost no strong, worthy sportsman-sportsmen in Russia. And the ranks are obtained at lower level tournaments. But when we get the categories, when the competition will be included in the official calendar of the sports committee, then financing will probably appear. So far, regional mountaineering federations are conducting them on their own. For example, in Magnitogorsk, under the auspices of the local climbing club, Gennady Kirievsky and Sergey Soldatov organized an excellent championship for almost their money. _A sponsors do not support Russian ski mountaineering? Indeed, in many countries, ski-mountaineering competitions are sponsored by large equipment manufacturers ._ * VK *: Of course, the organizers of the competition are trying to attract sponsors. But so far we have ski climbing – the lot of a small company of enthusiasts, so outdoor companies are in no hurry to invest in it. The Italian Camp partly helped our team with equipment for the competition, but we still had to buy skis and boots ourselves. Alas, while skiing in Russia rests solely on sheer enthusiasm. – h3. Thirst for victory Prize for the will to win – such an award was received by the Russian team at the last European ski mountaineering championship, held in March 2007 in the French resort of Morzine-Avoriaz. Six athletes fought for the skiing honor of Russia, and the Russian team took 15th place in the overall ranking from 21 countries. Perhaps this result should be recognized as very good, because this year the requirements for participants have increased significantly. The championship program included four races – vertical, team (distance – 20 kilometers), individual and relay. The leading position, as always, was taken by athletes from France, Spain, Italy and Switzerland. – h3. Dressed in the latest fashion. Of course, such a specific sport as ski climbing requires completely special equipment. Ski climbers weigh less than a kilogram and are much shorter than mountain ones: men – 160, women – 150 centimeters. A camus is glued onto their sliding surface – a synthetic tape with a directed pile, which allows you to move forward, but does not allow the ski to slip back. The most lightweight, weightless ski tour mounts have two main positions: a “free heel” for lifting and a “fixed heel” for lowering. The boots are also very light, with hinges that provide free work of the ankle on the rise. Before the descent, a special switch (“walking / skiing” position) fixes the ankle at a certain angle. If necessary, “cats” are attached to them, which, together with self-insurance, carbines, an avalanche sensor, a probe and a shovel, are also included in the mandatory set of equipment for athletes.