Ski mountaineering - a breath-taking beginning

Ski mountaineering debuted at the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne. There is a lot more to this sport than meets the eye.

With cowbells clanging and her childhood friends screaming, Switzerland’s Caroline Ulrich crossed the line first in the women’s individual event to become ski mountaineering’s first Youth Olympic Games champion.

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Caroline Ulrich SUI, on stage during the Victory Ceremony for the Ski Mountaineering Women’s Individual event - Joel Marklund for OIS

The hundreds of local fans who joined international supporters on the testing Villars Winter Park course were then doubly rewarded when Ulrich’s teammate, Thibe Deseyn took the silver medal. France’s Margot Ravinel claimed the bronze medal.

Bussard brothers continued the host nation’s great start by taking gold and silver in the men’s ski mountaineering individual event. Nils Oberauer finished third, winning Austria’s first medal of the Games.

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Rocco Baldini (ITA), who won gold in the men’s sprint in 2 minutes, 30.14 seconds, beating his compatriot Luca Tomasoni on the line by a narrow margin. Ot Ferrer Martinez (ESP) got the bronze in the fast and furious event.

Rocco Baldini ITA competing in the Ski Mountaineering men’s Individual at Villars Winter Park - Ben Queenborough for OIS

Maria Costa Diez (ESP) was also overcome with emotion after winning gold in the women’s sprint (3:22.45). Silvia Berra (ITA) got the silver and Margot Ravinel (FRA) the bronze.

Maria Costa Diez ESP on the finish line, winning the Ski Mountaineering Women’s Sprint final. - Joel Marklund for OIS

On the last day of competition the Bussard brothers were joined by Thibe Deseyn and Caroline Ulrich in the Swiss team as they won the boy-girl-boy-girl mass start event involving two uphill and two downhill sections. France got silver and Spain got bronze.

Thibe Deseyn, Caroline Ulrich, Thomas and Robin Bussard in Villars - Jed Leicester, OIS/IOC

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?

Ski Mountaineering – commonly referred to as “skimo” for short – is a winter sport in which athletes race over snow-covered terrain using both skiing and mountaineering techniques. The courses require competitors to ski uphill and downhill, often gaining up to 1,900m in elevation, as they pass through a series of checkpoints, and the first racer to cross the finish line wins. Some sections of the course also require athletes to travel on foot, carrying their skis on their rucksacks, and they may even need to use crampons or other specialist equipment for steeper, icier ascents.

KITTED OUT

Athletes use a range of specialist equipment when competing in Ski Mountaineering events. Their skis are usually very light, so they don’t weigh the athlete down when they are strapped to the backpack, while their boots are designed to be easy to wear when ascending on skis or on foot, with quick-opening fastenings to adapt the boot to the right situation. The bindings also have to be able to switch between uphill and downhill use. The skis themselves feature detachable “skins” on the bottom, which allow athletes to ski uphill without sliding backwards. Some races also require athletes to use ice axes, harnesses, ropes and crampons.

Olympic Channel Video: ski-mountaineering-sport-explainer-lausanne-2020

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