Tear the hides and point it!
The first stop of the Colorado Ski Mountaineering Cup (COSMIC) series is this Saturday, December 11 in our backyard.
The COSMIC series typically starts in January with the Heathen Challenge at Sunlight Ski Resort and continues on a tour of races at a variety of ski resorts throughout Colorado.
Over the summer, local randonnée racers Jake Jones and Bryan Wickenhauser approached local cat skiing operation CS Irwin with an idea to host a race on their terrain, giving the race a more ski mountaineering feel.
Furthermore, due to Irwin’s penchant for copious amounts of early season snow, the venue allows the COSMIC season to kick off in December at Irwin.
Well, the idea is coming to fruition this Saturday and the race is full with 50 racers, both men and women, signed up to compete.
“I expected it to fill up because of the venue,” says Wickenhauser. “We’re racing completely off-piste.”
Half of the competitors hail from outside the Gunnison Valley and include a who’s who from the ski mountaineering world.
“We’ve got the top male and female racers from last year and a handful of U.S. Ski Mountaineering Team members,” says Wickenhauser.
The course is laid out in a cloverleaf design with every uphill starting at the movie cabin and every downhill finishing at the movie cabin.
The climbs take racers up three different drainages topping out at various points along Scarp Ridge. The second lap includes a 100-vertical-foot boot pack up a tight couloir, complete with a hand line through a crux section.
“It’s really aesthetic,” says Wickenhauser. “Kind of thin but that’s alright, it’s sporty.”
The course is 11 miles long with a total of 5,200 feet of climbing.
There are two classes, rec and race, with the rec class doing the first two laps, including the boot pack section, and the race class doing all three.
As of press time, Irwin had received another fresh blanket of snow and conditions should be primo for the inaugural CS Irwin Lodge Rando Race.
“It will be true ski mountaineering conditions,” says Wickenhauser.
All racers are required to have a working beacon, shovel, probe and helmet and must attach their skis to their pack on the boot pack.
Snocat transport for racers leaves the Kebler Pass trailhead at 8 a.m. on Saturday. The race kicks off at 10 a.m. and spectators are encouraged to hang out at the movie cabin to watch competitors come through the transition area.
Anyone looking to help out should attend the volunteer meeting at the CS Irwin office in town at the corner of Fifth Street and Belleview Avenue on Friday, December 10 at 6 p.m. Racer meeting is at 7 p.m.
Contact Bryan Wickenhauser at (970) 209-5803 with any questions regarding the race.