Wanted: College students interested in competing in endurance skiing. Please report to the Mountain Sports program at Western State Colorado University

This weekend marked the debut of Western’s Mountain Sports Endurance Ski Team.  On Saturday, teammates Matt Clark and Nick Schley skied in the 2013 Irwin/La Sportiva Ski Mountaineering Race. The race took place at the Irwin Cat Skiing lodge just a few miles west of Crested Butte in the beautiful Elk Mountains. Conditions for the race were near perfect for creating a truly memorable event; Irwin received 17 inches of new snow in the prior week, very light winds existed on race day and temperatures hovered between 12 and -2 degrees Fahrenheit.  The race consisted of two human powered laps up and down Scarps Ridge, one of which contained a sporty boot-pack climb up a chute, and totaled 3,500 vertical feet of elevation gain in just about 6.4 miles.

For their relatively young ages in a sport where time equals knowledge, both Matt and Nick have respectable backcountry ski portfolios. They met at a mutual friend’s house on a Friday night last February, where Matt invited Nick out for a day of powder skiing the next morning in the Wolf Creek backcountry. It ended up dumping over 22 inches in less than forty eight hours that weekend. They skied from bell to bell on Saturday, split a cabin with 5 other salty dogs they met in the skin track and did it all over again on Sunday, before triumphantly returning to Gunnison, tired and stoked. Clark and Schley have been skiing together since and scored their first turns this season on October 19th.

But before this weekend neither Nick nor Matt had ever entered, or even spectated a ski mountaineering race, and they did quite well for their first go at the thing.  Matt who usually enjoys fat and heavy powder ski’s in the backcountry rented a Dynafit (light weight touring) ski and boot set up for the race, while Nick used something that he was a bit more familiar with, his metal top sheeted telemark skis. While their gear was anything but orthodox for the event, the boys had a blast making it work and getting some positive results; both ended up on the podium for their division. Matt took first place in the Men’s Rec category, while Nick took second, just three minutes back.  The boys were both stoked and surprised by their results.

Matt and Nick along with the two other current WSCU Mountain Sports Endurance Ski Team members, Sam Lesnikoski, and Dylan Rome, are looking forward to what is shaping up to be a stellar season ahead. They hope to acquire proper Randonee gear in the coming weeks, compete in a few more of the COSMIC Series races and the Gothic Mountain Tour; all ultimately in preparation for March 28th and The Elk Mountain Grand Traverse.