The Five Peaks ski mountaineering race
So you’ve skied all the Peaks of Breckenridge in one day, gotten an EpicMix Pin and bragging rights. Now imagine climbing each one – before you ski down. In its fourth season, the Five Peaks race is part of the rising popularity of ski mountaineering. Known as America’s longest ski mountaineering race, teams of two compete in the short and long courses, skinning, boot packing and skiing over the high-elevation peaks of the Ten Mile Range.
The long course gains 8,000 vertical feet over the ascent and descent of Peaks 10, 9, 8, 7 and 6. The short course, not to be underrated, climbs an impressive 6,000 feet over Peaks 9, 8 and 7. A full course description can be found here.
Teams are made up of two competitors, who must enter and depart all transition areas together and finish together. This format comes from the European races, where terrain is much more extreme and your partner is a vital part of your safety.
This year’s race is sanctioned with the US Ski Mountaineering Association (USSMA), which will surely draw well-known competitors of the sport. Expect regional and local athletes including last year’s winners, Max Taam and John Gaston. Race director Jeff Westcott names Breckenridge Ski Patrollers, Duke Barlow and Mark Beardsley a “threat” to keep your eye on during this year’s race.
Athletes generally train with a combination of endurance training and gym workouts. With the race season underway, there isn’t much time for anything other than “race and recovery,” says Westcott. With a skin or boot pack up each peak, the grueling race can be as much of a mental challenge as it is a physical challenge. It’s the little aspects of the race that can be the most demanding, says Westcott, who is also a past competitor, “fumbling in the transitions, struggling to get food at the right time, not communicating well with your partner,” all of these things can add up over 8,000 vertical feet.
Spectators can watch the race at Breckenridge via resort lifts, no skinning required. Check out the course description online to find ideal viewing points. Competitors start around 6:30 AM and finish within 6 hours, with the leaders completing the course in an impressive three and a half hours.
2014 Short Course Map
Due to weather, late course changes are common in Ski Mountaineering races. Expect them so that you are not surprised by them! All changes will be communicated the night before the race, and at the start.
– Jesse Ambrogi-Yanson