Injury ends Cam Smith’s World Cup skimo season

“It filled me with excitement to be in the mix climbing, transitioning and skiing amongst the best of the sport”

by Than Acuff 

After seeing massive success in skimo (ski mountaineering) racing in North America and testing the waters of the World Cup skimo circuit the past few years, including punching a third-place finish at a World Cup race last winter, local Cam Smith decided to jump into the big pool with both feet. Smith, who also wears the hats of CB Nordic coach, Adaptive Sports Center employee and Grand Traverse title winner, moved to Europe last year to focus his life on skimo racing and experience the European skiing culture.

“I’ve finished every international racing season with the same conclusion,” says Smith. “That if I really want to achieve my best as an athlete, I need to spend the full season abroad.”

He made the move in October 2022 with a plan to focus on long-term success while taking his lumps in early races at the start of the World Cup season in November.

“I essentially structured training to take the October-December races (Mountain Running World Championships in Thailand and the first two World Cups) as great experiences, while building towards being my best in February and March,” says Smith. “That was immediately obvious when I clearly lacked the requisite firepower in the opening two sprint races.”

Continued training, racing and patience started to take hold for Smith as he mixed World Cup races with local races. He had his first major result in December when he jumped from the sprint format to the longer, and arguably more demanding, individual event to finish 15th at a World Cup race in Ponte Di Legno, Italy.

“It filled me with excitement to be in the mix climbing, transitioning and skiing amongst the best of the sport,” says Smith. “I was eventually 15th at the finish, which leaves plenty of room to grow, but was also the highest position I’d finished in an individual and closer in time to the leaders than ever before.”

With a break in the World Cup race schedule, Smith took the time to mix in a major training week during which he climbed 84,000 feet of vertical on his skis, got in some powder skiing and then participated in a couple of local races, placing third in one and winning another. Smith then returned to the World Cup circuit with racing in Comapedrosa, Andorra on January 21-22. Despite some equipment issues and massive winds, he put together two great days of racing with a 12th place finish in the individual race and an 11th place finish in the vertical race the next day.

“Now those results were coming consistently,” says Smith. “I felt lots of improvement coming and was excited to have more chances ahead for that elusive breakout race.”

It was also a time when the highs mixed in with the lows and Smith questioned if training, racing in less-than-optimal conditions and extensive traveling to compete were all really worth it.

“Despite the strong races, that trip definitely gave me doubts about the entire trip,” explains Smith. “Considering the time-consuming and gas-burning travel to go to a weekend of short races in the windstorm and spending most of the weekend indoors felt far from my passions of recreating in the mountains.”

Smith got a boost from another series of local races with podium results while his croissant intake continued to climb as well.

“Both were fantastic events with participants ranging from professional World Cup athletes to locals who climb the course with friends just to finish and it all concludes with dinner and music up on the mountain,” says Smith. “Having strong races also proves that someone can indeed eat 212 croissants (and counting), which roughly converts to 24 pounds of body fat, and still perform at a high level.”

With the bulk of the World Cup circuit ahead and Smith feeling strong, his hopes were high for a strong and positive finish to his European experience. Unfortunately, the experience came to a screeching halt when Smith suffered a season-ending knee injury tearing his ACL and meniscus at the beginning of February.

He returned stateside for knee surgery and is currently on the mend, disappointed with how it all ended.

“It was a huge financial, time and emotional investment to spend the whole season over there, and to come back before any of the biggest races happened is a big bummer,” admits Smith. “Beyond the races, just to not see through the full experience of living over there after all that buildup is also a letdown.”

That said, he is happy to be back and focused on things bigger than both himself and racing.

“I’m looking forward to just getting back to life in Crested Butte,” says Smith. “Before the injury I was having a hard time with an objectively self-centered lifestyle. It was pretty fun to just focus on skiing all day long, but it will be nice to get back to working, being involved in the community and feeling like I am doing something for anyone but myself.” 

As for a return to racing, all in good time, maybe. 

“I have been saying lately that I don’t know if I’ll get back to racing with the same level of commitment,” says Smith. “It just feels so far away, and I am most motivated to just get healthy and get my life back. It seems likely that the fire will come back with time and health.”

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