By Andrew Mitchell
With spots on the line for the Canadian National Ski Mountaineering Team, a solid group of backcountry enthusiasts took part in the competition side of last weekend’s Whistler Backcountry Freeride Jam and Canadian National Ski Mountaineering Championships.
The first event, The North Face Whistler Wind Up, sent skiers from the base of Whistler Mountain to the Roundhouse, a vertical gain of nearly 1,200 metres.
Despite the lack of flat spots to catch their breath, the top skiers finished the route in just over an hour.
Killian Jornet Burgada, a 20-year-old racer from Spain, was the first skier to the top in a time of one hour, three minutes and 30 seconds.
Hot on his heels was Manuel Perez, another Spanish racer and a top contender at the European Ski Mountaineering Championships. He finished just four seconds back of Burgada, who holds the current world record for a 1,000 metre climb.
Third place went to Chris Kroger of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in a time of 1:12:02. Kroger is a member of the U.S. Ski Mountaineering Team and a past North American randonnee champion.
Brothers Andy and Mike Traslin, formerly of Whistler, were the top Canadians in fourth and fifth places, with respective times of 1:13:47, and 1:15:31.
For the women, Izaskun Zubizarreta of Spain was the racer to beat in a time of 1:17:17. Her teammate Mireia Miro Varela was second in 1:21:51. Karen Kingsley of Colorado was third in 1:23:32, followed by Whistler’s Malanie Berner in 1:42:45.
The main event of the freeride jam was the randonnee race on Saturday. There were two contests, the North Face Spearhead Passage, which covered 26 km of backcountry, and the much shorter inbounds North Face Dash.
In the long race, Slovakian ski mountaineering champion Peter Svatojansky was the fastest on his skis with a time of 2:26:37. He was followed closely by Kilian Jornet Burgada in 2:27:03 and Manuel Perez in 2:30:13.
The top Canadian was Revelstoke’s Greg Hill, placing fourth in 3:00:13. Hill has won several North American randonee races, and once skied over 50,000 vertical feet in a single day and more than a million vertical feet in a season. He followed up Saturday’s race with a lap of the entire Spearhead Traverse, including all the summits, for a total of 20,700 vertical feet of climbing and 47 km of trekking.
The slowest times were over six hours.
On the women’s side, Izaskun Zubizarreta beat her teammate by 10 minutes, completing the circuit in 3:19:21. Karen Kingsley was third in 3:42:16.
The “Soul and Spirit” award went to Andy Traslin, who finished in seventh place after falling and dislocating his shoulder two hours into the contest.
A smaller field competed in the 10 km Dash.
On the men’s side, Jonathan Wong finished first in 1:32:43, followed by Shawn Campbell in 1:33:35 and Luis Miguel Del Corral Rojo in 1:40:00.
For the women, Jen Jerabek led in 2:02:39, followed by Lina Augaitis in 2:04:14 and Philiippa Wall in 2:28.38.
As a national qualifier, the top Canadians in the Spearhead Passage will have the chance to represent Canada at the World Ski Mountaineering championships in 2008.