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Ask Outdoors: Are SkiMo and Ski Mountaineering the Same Thing? Yes and No.

As the snow starts to fly in many parts of North America, skiers and snowboarders dust off their boots and wax their skis in excited anticipation. Skiing, in any form, is one of the most popular winter sports around, and thanks to resorts and rentals, one of the most accessible. 

However, when we venture off the beaten path to a world of climbing skins, adjustable bindings, and uphill grinding, it opens up a whole other world of possibilities. 

Within the uphill skiing world there are different styles, among them backcountry skiing, ski mountaineering, and skimo. Backcountry skiing refers to skiing out of bounds in “the backcountry” and using climbing skins to “skin” uphill. 

Backcountry skiing requires more equipment than resort skiing as you not only need your skis, boots, poles, and helmet but also climbing skins and avalanche safety gear. Before venturing into the backcountry, it is crucial that you know how to read avalanche terrain, make informed decisions, and are prepared to be self-sufficient in the event of an accident. Always carry a Garmin inReach Mini or similar device when heading into the backcountry.

What is Ski Mountaineering?

Image by Johannes Andersson

Ski mountaineering refers to using skis to climb peaks—a more technical version of backcountry skiing. You may need ropes, ice screws, a climbing harness, and other specialized equipment to access gnarly, remote lines. For this type of skiing, you not only need to possess excellent skiing skills but also mountaineering, climbing, and backcountry navigational skills—particularly in avalanche-prone and glaciated terrain. 

If you’d like to learn more about ski mountaineering, check out “The Fifty Project” with Cody Townsend, or consider hiring an AMGA-certified ski guide to take you out of bounds and see what it’s all about.

What is ‘SkiMo’?

Image by Courtney Kenady

“Skimo” is technically short for “ski mountaineering.” However, this term has come to mean something entirely different and unique in the world of skiing. Skimo refers to a specific type of ski racing. Participants dress in spandex and race up and down and around resorts on alarmingly skinny skis. Imagine road cycling on skis and you’ll get a good picture of what this sport entails. 

While you’re still required to carry avalanche gear, wear a helmet, and use climbing skins, this sport is a far cry from the technical difficulty and expertise required to navigate backcountry and ski mountaineering terrain. Skimo is all about going as fast as you can—often on groomed snow. 

Originally founded in Europe as a more accessible way for people to try uphill skiing, skimo has grown in popularity world-wide as both a recreational and competitive sport. Many world-class trail and ultra runners participate in skimo races during their off-season and have seen improved results in running. The fitness required to move fast on skis uphill translates very well to running, as does the bullet-proof quad muscles you develop skiing steeps.

If you’re curious about skiing uphill, you can rent equipment at a gear shop and try it out at your local resort. Who knows, maybe you’ll get hooked, and now that you know the difference, you can decide whether a climbing harness and ski crampons or some colorful spandex are more your style. 

The post Ask Outdoors: Are SkiMo and Ski Mountaineering the Same Thing? Yes and No. appeared first on Outdoors with Bear Grylls.

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