Tackling Lone Peak, Skimo style
Sun and slide-for-life conditions greet extreme racers
The fifth annual Shedhorn Skimo race was held at the Big Sky Resort on Saturday, March 16. Ski Mo means ski mountaineering (formerly known as Rando or Randonnée racing) and is a race which tests the stamina, fitness, climbing ability and ski talents of the racers. Racers must complete a course which requires them to skin uphill, boot pack steep terrain, often with crampons on their boots and then ski down gnarly terrain to complete another lap or two before crossing the finish line.
There were two race courses, one longer named the “Shedhorn,” with 16-18 miles of distance and up to 9500 feet of elevation gain and a shorter circuit called the “Pronghorn,” about 7.5 miles in length with up to 4,600 feet of elevation gain.
In this year’s version of the race 88 competitors (71 men and 17 women) started from the BSR base area next to the Swift Current lift, skinned up Calamity Jane to the top of Bone Crusher where they donned crampons and hiked to the top of Lone Peak along the ridge line above the South Wall of the Bowl and then up Otter Slide.
On the summit of Lone Peak, they stripped off their crampons and skins and skied down the Big Coulier and then tackled the A-Z Chutes on a boot pack that took them to the Dead Goat Trail.
At this check point some of the racers doing the shorter route veered north and eventually circled back to the base area while those doing the Shedhorn race made their way to the Duck Walk and skinned to Dakota Bowl where they donned their crampons and again hiked to the summit of Lone Peak before skiing to the finish line in the base area.
The youngest racer was Will Hodgson, 16, from Bozeman High, who completed the short course. The oldest racer was Marin Le Roux, 56. Keola Jamieson and Will Steffe, both of Bozeman, completed the long course in Lederhosen—Swiss shorts with suspenders.
The overall winner of the long course race was Chris Carter of Bozeman who completed the course in 3:58:45. Jeff Shehan of Whitefish was second, in at 4:00:43, just one minute and 58 seconds back.
After that the times dropped off precipitously. The last person to finish was Haroldas Subertas who took eight hours 52 minutes to finish, 4:53:22 off the pace. A nod to Subertas for finishing after nearly nine hours of effort.
The fastest woman on the long course was Emmiliese Von Clemm, who finished in 5:12:06. On the short course the overall winner was Tyson Roth at 2:10:41. Second went to Axel Yount at 2:24:12. The fastest woman on the short course was Anika Miller at 2:24:51.
The longest time on the short course went to Kim Roush who took 5:44:41 to complete the course but Roush gets credit for even finishing. She had never skied the Big Couloir and the Big Sky Ski Patrol, to their credit, sent a patroller to help her get down the Big Couloir, some of the most difficult and dangerous lift served terrain in the ski world.
At the lower tram terminal check point Roush reported that she was “terrified” the whole time she was in the Big Couloir, but people kept encouraging her to finish so when she reached the bottom of the A-Z chutes she donned her crampons and kept moving and eventually crossed the finish line.
Water and food were available for the athletes at the check points along the race course, including on the summit of Lone Peak. Family, friends and fans found their way to the check points to cheer on their racer.
A small group assembled on Lone Peak in the beautiful spring sunshine to support the racers, creating a festive atmosphere at 11,166 feet. Noel Orloff, the wife of Shawn Orloff, who placed first in the Heavy Metal (citizen) division, stated that, “it’s fun, especially when it’s a nice day like this,” to be on the summit to support the racers. Shawn Orloff is a Big Sky ski patroller and has competed in Skimo the last three years.
Several racers and patrollers reported that the snow was firm, but with “slide for life” conditions in portions of the course where there had been steady sun during the prior week.
The serious exposure and skill level required for this race is evident in the gear list and the course description published by the race organizers prior to the race. The course description warns that there is “knife edge climbing,” “50+ degree boot packs,” and falls which could result in “serious injury and/or death.” An ice ax and crampons are required on the gear list. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries and only two racers were DNF (did not finish).
Ski mountaineering is the fastest growing snow sport in the United States and is popular in Europe. This race is one of many held across North America each winter and is part of the Colorado Ski Mountaineering Cup which culminates each season by selecting racers to participate in the world championships in Europe. Organizers are attempting to make ski mo part of the Winter Olympics. The elite racers use highly specialized gear and many train year-round for winter races.