Janelle Smiley wins national skimo title in Jackson Hole
Written by Than Acuff
Wednesday, 09 January 2013
Three locals qualify for ski mountaineering world championships
Janelle Smiley’s ski mountaineering (skimo) domination continues on the national scene winning her second national title in the past three years at the 2013 U.S. Ski Mountaineering National Championships in Jackson Hole on Saturday, January 5.
The win automatically qualifies Smiley for the ski mountaineering world championships in France February 9-15.
Conditions were decent on the course with a mix of packed snow on groomers but with sections of steep pitches up through firm moguls causing some skin purchase issues, yet still manageable for experienced racers.
“It wasn’t really too icy, which was nice,” says Smiley.
The descents were manageable, with skiers encountering small trees and bushes poking through the snow at the very bottom of the course.
“There was some shrubbery at the bottom,” confirms veteran skimo competitor Bryan Wickenhauser.
Smiley jumped out into the lead on the initial climb that puts an immediate pinch on the field of racers.
“It’s long and hard,” says Smiley.
On the bright side, the first woman and man to the top of the first brutal climb win $100 each, and both Smiley and Marshall Thomson pocketed the cash for their efforts.
The course continues with three more climbs, including a boot pack section, and three more descents. From there races turn back uphill to the base of Corbett’s Couloir where they toss their skis and poles on their backs once again to climb up through, and out of, the couloir using a ladder on the final push to the top.
“That was perfect boot packing conditions,” says Smiley.
From there it was 3,000 feet down for one last climb and descent to the finish line.
While Smiley finished well ahead of the women’s field, it didn’t come easy.
“I felt kind of flat, honestly, but I still pushed hard though it,” says Smiley.
Jari Kirkland joined Smiley on the podium, finishing in second place and also earning a spot at the world championships.
On the men’s side of things, while Thomson led the charge off the start line, he ended up in sixth place by the time the race was over. Wickenhauser finished in eighth and Jon Brown took 14th place.
Wickenhauser, who has raced in the world championships three times before, found this year’s men’s field faster than ever.
“Everybody’s getting faster,” says Wickenhauser. “The races are starting to be won on the downhills, just fearless descending.”
Most of the racers from Saturday’s race lined up again on Sunday at Grand Targhee for another chance at qualifying for the world championships.
While Smiley had already qualified for the world championships, she found another challenge at Sunday’s race when world-class skimo racer Gemma Arro Ribot of Spain lined up.
“I thought, ‘Oh man, I’m going to have to work harder than I want to,’” says Smiley.
Arro Gibot is most known for her speed on the climbs and Smiley let her go off the start line hoping to reel her in on the descents. Smiley’s plan played out perfectly as she eventually caught Arro Gibot, to win the race by three minutes.
Thomson made the most of the second race of the weekend, pushing his way on to the podium to place third and qualify for the world championships. Wickenhauser finished seventh and Brown posted another 14th-place finish.
The world of skimo racing continues with one last qualifier event, the Heathen Challenge, at Sunlight Mountain on Saturday, January 12. The skimo racing circuit then comes to Crested Butte on Saturday, January 26.