There's a time and place to push one's luck, but spring in the backcountry is neither.
That's a major reason why after last year's sold-out Squamish Skimo race, organizer Eric Carter had some trepidation about the perfect storm of good fortune coming together again. Instead, the ski-mountaineering race (where competitors are touring, but trying to finish in the fastest time) will come to Blackcomb Mountain this weekend as the Darkside Skimo.
"We totally lucked out with the weather. The conditions and the weather were absolutely perfect for avalanche conditions," Carter said. "The reasoning for the move to Whistler was that we figured we wouldn't be able to get that lucky two years in a row. It's a statistical impossibility."
The race is slated for this Saturday (April 6), but could be bumped back a day based on avalanche conditions. Carter said while the hesitation of running the race in Squamish again was a factor in the move, having the spectacular landing spot on Blackcomb makes the decision easier.
"The (alpine) terrain on Whistler Blackcomb is really spectacular," he said. "We really wanted to show that off as well."
Last year's race was in the backcountry, but this time around, it will be "entirely inbounds," Carter said. That said, the course will be off-piste using runs like Pakalolo and Spanky's Ladder.
"It's going to be like a downhill skier's race," Carter said. "We want to get a little bit away from the Spandex and skinny-ski perception of ski mountaineering racing and remind people that it is about the skiing. The stuff that we do when we're not racing is kind of cool skiing, so we try to focus on that and use that terrain that we have available at Blackcomb."
Carter is expecting between 100 and 120 participants including national champions Nick Elson and Kylee Toth Ohler as well as six to eight of their teammates. While there are some of the sport's biggest names in town, Carter said with both long- and short-distance contests, the event is designed to appeal to a variety of skiers.
"It's a more efficient way of getting out and getting in the mountains. It's something we all do as ski tourers and ski mountaineers, and the racing just adds a competitive aspect to it," he said. "We can take these techniques and use them in the backcountry as well, just to be more efficient. That's the goal of our race.
"We do want it to be a super competitive race and a high-quality race, but we do also want it to be appealing for a regular ski tourer who might just be kind of interested in how you can move a little faster."
With main sponsor Escape Route on board for three years, Carter is hoping to continue to hold the event in the future.
"That's our goal, to keep going the next few years, ideally at Blackcomb, but we're open to other opportunities," he said.
The course outline, subject to change, as well as other pertinent race information is available at www.squamishskimo.com.