Think January is the off-season for endurance sports? Think again. Rando racing requires busting your lungs before bombing down and snowshoeing makes trail running in sneakers feel like recovery. Here’s a handful of the most punishing events in both disciplines for your suffering pleasure.
The Heathen Challenge
January 15 • Sunlight Mountain
Serving as the final selection race for the US Ski Mountaineering Team, the Heathen course has gotten even burlier for 2011, in both the Race and Rec categories. Expect more technical skinning, lots of kick turns, more transitions, and steeper skiing. The Race course features three full descents of The Heathen/Lower Defiance, which means that by the last run, the bumps and ruts in the trees at the bottom will hurt—bad.
Camp Ski Mountaineering Race
January 29 • Crested Butte
This was known for being Colorado’s oldest and one of it’s most demanding rando races, courtesy of significant singletrack and switchbacks, but CAMP upped the ante last year with the addition of more vertical. Then fresh snow conditions made for an off-piste untracked final descent. Decide for yourself if this sounds like your sweetest dream or most horrific nightmare. ussma.org
Race the Divide
February 13 • Monarch Mountain
To race this course, you’re required to carry a beacon/shovel/probe and wear a helmet. What more do we need to say? We do have one piece of advice for the ladies. If you’re looking to win a randonee ski race, just show up. Only one defiant diva finished the course in the Recreation category last year. ussma.org
Tennessee Pass Cookhouse Colorado State Snowshoe Championships
January 15 • Ski Cooper
Snowshoe racers are true sadomasochists, being both the initiators and the recipients of the self-flogging. Compare last year’s state championship numbers (34 men, 24 women) with the thousands competing in warm-weather sufferfests like triathlons, and you’ll truly appreciate the twisted company you keep. pedalpowerbike.com
The Screamin’ Snowman Snowshoe Race
February TBD • Eldora
The only snowshoe race on the Front Range lets you choose from a 5K or 10K course, both a mixture of groomed trails, packed singletrack and fresh powder. The grisly event is named after a legend contending that miners heard the shrieks of evil snow creatures that lived in the forests above Eldora. Racers have yet to encounter the beasts, but claim that the steepest sections of the course have made them wish they had. racingunderground.com
Love Me Tender Race
February 12 • Frisco
Don’t let the name fool you; this 10K is more akin to hate, or at least tough love, with a unique rolling course through the Iron Springs Open Space that makes for the fastest, most adventurous snowshoe race in Colorado. Held at Summit High, in conjunction with the Colorado High School Snowshoe State Championships, the race is a qualifier for Nationals. snowshoeracing.com
Jeremy Wright Snowshoe Championship
March 6 • Beaver Creek
A tribute to Jeremy Wright, a snowshoer killed in Afghanistan in 2005, this race draws a fair amount of first-timers, thanks to abundant groomed sections and incredible views to distract from the agony. Newbies be forewarned: the 5K is actually closer to 3.5 miles and you’ll gain close to 1,000 feet in elevation. And stay away from the 10K altogether. It’s painful, no matter how pretty it looks. beavercreek.com
Kid’s Climbing College in Ouray
January 8 & 9: (during the Ice Fest) 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
February 12: Noon to 4:00 p.m.
It’s the least you’ll ever pay for your child’s college education: Ouray Ice Park in conjunction with San Juan Mountain Guides will be hosting three separate days of introductory climbing for kids 8 to 17 years old. The free program will be held at the ice park’s Kids’ Wall located on County Road 280 in Ouray. All equipment is provided and prizes are awarded to every participant. Kids should come dressed in a warm jacket, pants, gloves and hat. There will be heated tents for hanging out, hot cocoa and a bonfire. Preregister for any of the dates at ourayclimbing.com or by calling 970.325.4925. Walk-ons also welcome.