CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine — While most skiers spend the majority of their time travelling down the mountain, Sugarloaf will pay homage to those who prefer to ski uphill during the first ever Holiday Hill Climb on Dec. 27. The event will be the first of two randonee races at Sugarloaf this season, making the resort the only location in Maine to host a United States Ski Mountaineering Association (USSMA) race this year.
Randonee skiing, also known as Alpine Touring (AT), is a form of skiing in which athletes ascend the mountain under their own power through the use of specialized bindings and “skins,” which allow the skis to grip the snow while climbing.
At the Holiday Hill Climb, competitors will begin at the bottom of the SuperQuad chairlift at 4:30pm and race more than a mile up the mountain in the dark to Bullwinkles Restaurant, a climb of nearly 1,200 vertical feet. The event will be followed by a pasta dinner at the Sugarloaf Inn, an awards ceremony and a slide show of randonee skiing and racing in the Alps.
Racers can compete using randonee, telemark, or Nordic equipment. There will also be a snowshoe division.
Randonee skiing, which emphasizes cardiovascular fitness, is typically used for backcountry skiing where athletes do not have the luxury of chairlifts to bring them up the mountain. In recent years, however, the sport and the equipment have seen increasing popularity at ski resorts.
“Ski mountaineering or randonee skiing has its roots in the European Alps but it’s growing fast here in the states,” said Nina Silitch, Holiday Hill Climb organizer and member of the US Ski Mountaineering Team. “Night rando races are fun events that bring folks together on the slopes and then after at the post race meal. Sugarloaf is the perfect place to host this kind of event and kick off the New England series.”
For anyone who wishes to participate in the race but is new to the sport, Silitch and US Ski Mountaineering coach Pete Swenson will host a randonee clinic on the day of the race, from 10am to 12pm. Demo equipment will be available to those who preregister.
“In this race, we hope to help spread the word about this up and coming sport and encourage all levels, especially newcomers, to come and give it a try.” Silitch said. “The clinic will give them a chance to learn about what equipment is needed and how to use it.”
Sugarloaf is also planning a second uphill race for the spring.
For additional information about the Holiday Hill Climb or to register, visit www.sugarloaf.com.