Nina and Lyndsay set a goal to compete in the Pierra Menta – the famous four day French ski mountaineering race. Nina had had a few set backs in the past 3 weeks missing the World Champs due to flu and strep, then a car accident and a relapse of strep throat. Needless to say- she strapped her skis on after almost 3 weeks of being away. Sometimes a good break is all that is needed. The goal was to purely finish the race and we did more than that. They were the first American team to take place in this event. And we took 14th place out of 21 womens teams. This year there were more womans teams than ever and the level was high; they were competing against top teams from France, Italy Spain, Germany. In total there were about 165 teams men included.

The Areche/ Beaufort region is the heart of ski mountaineering. The children in this area start randonee skiing at age 10 so they have some distance and training behind them. It was clear from the course setters that they wanted to give a taste of what real ski mountaineerin is about. The courses were varied and changed a bit with the lack of snow in places. The arrival day it poured with rain but were blessed w/ 3 good sunny days and then the last day a bit of mixed weather.

  • The first 2 days of downhills skiing was pure surival skiing. Our first decent was bullet proof ice…Bode Miller would have let them run on this. It reminded me a bit if Sugarloaf/USA after a good rain and then a freeze. Lyndsay and I let them run as much as we could but then it was purely survival skiing getting down over roots and rocks and then icy couloirs with rutted out mogals. There were places on the decents we had to take off our skiis and literally run down a steep muddly slope w/ rocks and roots and trees. We called this the Rambo run. Lyndsay’s ultra trail running kicked in and she launched by some teams like a gazelle. There was one section that went up a cable line and we must have done 85 kick turns. We got those down. Another section the snow was to hard to make a track so it was fend for yourself over an avalanche debris slope- It was pure mayhem -people forging there way in all directions trying not to slide down the icy slope. Another section again was pure ice. One had to gently skin, with abs engaged…tread lightly….On this section one could look to the left of right and people would loose traction and just slide right down the slope they just climbed. The last day we did well and made up time on the decents and the flats. We knew it would be over soon – and were looking forward to the finish. It was hot but we hung in there and moved up 4 places.

    We finished- our bodies a bit sore- blisters under our toes and on ankles but good none-the less. We remember why we do this. To push ourselves to a challenged. Enjoy meeting new people and also to be thankful for what our bodies can do.

    Often throughout the course people would cheer, Go Lyndsay, Go Nina. Go USA. It was nice to have the encouragement from the crowds. One man said to us, “oh you are from America; This isn’t too hard for you?” We of course said no. Yes the sport is new in the US and we are happy to be helping it grow.

    Throughout the 4 days, I often thought of Tour de France riders- finishing their stages and then having to recover and take care of their bodies. this would be our schedule:

  • finish our race…
  • grab some food and drink
  • change clothes,
  • re fuel,
  • shower and stretch,
  • nap
  • get a massage (these were given to all racers each day!) and
  • then get the briefing on next days course,
  • eat some more,
  • prepare our equipment, (Skis, boots, food- water_
  • sleep
  • wake at 5am for 7am start.

Most days we were out racing between 4hr:30 and 5hr:30 min- The last day was much shorter -only 1:30 ( a welcome change) Total elevation gain over 4 days: (10000 meters or 32,800 feet)

The best was to have Michael and Birken at the finish w/ Birken’s. I could not have done this with out the support of Michael- my ski tech and coach- My boys and Anna too! and the support of Mom- Dad and Bunge. Thank you!

Go Mommy Go! sign!

To Read a first hand account from Lyndsay – our feature writer-

Featured on TETONAT.com LIVE TO SKI

For a very cool video on the Pierra Menta click on the following. This was aired on French TV. You will have a chance to practice your French.

For more about the event click below:

http://www.pierramenta.com/

Next…The Patrouilles des Glaciers… http://www.pdg.ch/ the swiss ski mountaineering race Zermatt to Verbier April 18th….we will join up w/ Tara Jeffries from Cervinia, Italy.