Ski mountaineering: The expert view

With ski mountaineering poised to make its Olympic debut at the Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Lausanne 2020, asks Athlete Role Models (ARMs) Yannick Ecoeur and Ekaterina Osichkina what we can expect from the latest addition to the programme.

Picture by ISMF

Commonly known as “skimo”, ski mountaineering seems almost a polar opposite of conventional Alpine skiing. While most skiers are used to hurtling down mountains, ski mountaineers point their skis upwards, aiming to ascend the mountain, passing regular checkpoints throughout their events, which can last up to two hours.

Reaching as high as 1,900m, not all of the terrain at the third edition of the Winter YOG will be accessible on skis, even with special climbing skins attached for grip. Athletes will have to remove their skis, strap them to their rucksacks and continue on foot, using crampons or ice picks for the more challenging ascents.

Switzerland’s Yannick Ecoeur, a multiple ski mountaineering medallist on the world stage, and five-time world junior champion Ekaterina Osichkina, from Russia, will both be offering advice to young athletes at Lausanne 2020 as ARMs. Here, they share their thoughts, and some tips, for the 48 young ski mountaineers who will be making Olympic history in January.

What to expect

Ecoeur: “At the YOG, there will be three different disciplines – the individual, sprint and mixed relay races, the latter of which will take place with teams made up of athletes from different countries. They will have to share with people they don’t know and who won’t completely understand each other. As a result, it will be something fascinating to both watch and take part in.”

Tense times

Ecoeur: “There is a level of tension that is just incredible, because it so often comes down to a photo-finish at the end. We hope and we wait, and the moment when we see our team-mate coming around the final corner and crossing the finish line in first place is really memorable.

A golden opportunity

Osichkina: “Firstly, it prepares [athletes] for the Olympic Games in the future. Secondly, it gives them much motivation to go further in their sporting careers. Thirdly, it is an opportunity to be part of the greatest worldwide celebration of youth, sport and friendship.”

Ecoeur: “It’s a fantastic opportunity for the young athletes. If I’d been the same age as the youngsters who will take part, I would have been thrilled. When you hear the words ‘Olympic Games’, it’s exciting. It’s the step before the Olympic Games, the biggest accolade for all athletes.”

Enjoy it!

Osichkina: “Enjoy the incredible, spectacular event. We have the opportunity to represent the beauty of sport to the world, and enjoy amazing events and unforgettable atmospheres.”