SKIMO ON THE UP
18th July 2017 | Catie Friend, PlanetSKI
Ski mountaineering – racing up then down mountains on skis is heading for the Olympics at the 2020 Youth Games.
It’s almost a year since the International Olympic Committee recognised ski mountaineering – or Skimo – and now it’s been named as the eighth sport to be included at the Lausanne Youth Games.
The decision was announced by the IOC’s executive board earlier this month.
It’s been a long road to get Olympic recognition and there’s delight at the world governing body that it will be making its debut in 2020.
PlanetSKI has spoken exclusively to the Sport Director for the International Ski Mountaineering Federation (ISMF).
“It is very exciting,” Rebecca Vernon told us.
“This is very good for youth development within ski mountaineering.
“Hopefully it will also further encourage equipment manufacturers to improve their offerings specific for the youth market, with lower prices, thus making the sport more accessible to beginners.”
Three disciplines have been chosen for the Youth Olympics:
- Individual race
Together they embody all the elements of the sport – skins on skis to go up, skis on backpack and crampons on boots when it gets really steep and skiing hard and fast on the way down.
It’s a great way to “show off” ski mountaineering to a new audience.
The sport is supporting other initiatives announced by the Lausanne 2020 committee, namely more competitors and, specifically, an increased number of female competitors.
The IOC says Lausanne will see the highest number of women’s events and women competing.
The ISMF is working with all 31 member federations to promote the sport to athletes as young as 12, but particularly focusing on those currently in the cadet category – 14 and 15, who will be 17 and 18 for the Lausanne games.
These will be the athletes that will be eligible to compete in Villars, the chosen resort for the Skimo events at Lausanne 2020.
In the future the federation will consider lowering the age for the Youth Olympics, but for their first foray they will stick to the juniors.
This is to allow greater participation from all member countries, especially those where ski mountaineering is still in its infancy, such as Great Britain and Turkey, and would benefit from some more years of development.
The youth camps, held every year, always have a female ISMF ambassador, to encourage girls and young women into the sport.
Most recently it was Laura Orgué of Spain, formerly an Olympic cross-country skier, turned ski mountaineer.
Rebecca Vernon was pleased that at recent youth camps the Polish contingent had more girls than boys for the first time.
All this is, of course, giving hope for full Olympic inclusion, perhaps as early as Beijing 2022.
As a result of all the work and the collaboration with the IOC, the ISMF is seeing great steps in standardisation amongst the member states, an enhanced media output and an improved anti-doping programme in line with IOC ethics.
Exciting times for the newest Olympic sport!
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