Course Description

The essence of ski mountaineering racing is moving efficiently through challenging winter alpine terrain. We’ve designed a course with this very much in mind. Utilizing the amazing terrain in the Shannon Creek Valley behind Squamish’s Sea to Sky Gondola, this will be an incredible event!

Because the race takes place entirely in backcountry terrain, we are somewhat limited by weather and avalanche conditions. Below we describe our ideal course, this is subject to change or cancellation based on conditions. Please understand that our goal is to provide you with the absolute best racing experience possible but we will only hold the race if we can be absolutely sure of racer safety.

Basics:

    • Start/Finish at Sea to Sky Gondola Summit Station
    • Long Course: ~1300-1500 meters of ascent
    • Short Course: ~900-1000 meters of ascent
    • Race Duration: 1.5 to 3hrs
    • See possible routes here:

THE ROUTE

Updated Thursday Mar 8, 9:00pm:
Weather conditions have resulted in a minor change from our original planned course but one that still utilizes much of the terrain and goes into the alpine. See the map below as well as google earth photos. You can also download GPX files to upload to a watch for each course from the Cal Topo map above.
 
Both the Long and Short course use the same track but via different loop combinations. The race will start in the Firepit Plaza at the Sea to Sky Gondola Station. The first 2km follows the Shannon Creek Logging Road. This road will be groomed and is a very slight net downhill with a few little ups. We recommend leaving skins off and skating this 2km section. For the most part it is pretty fast. The fastest racers will cover these 2km in less than 8 minutes. If you aren’t up to the skate though, skinning is acceptable. 
 
All racers will come to an intersection with a course volunteer where the race turns off the Shannon Creek Road and onto the also groomed Sky Pilot Valley Trail. Here you will be instructed to apply skins and continue uphill. The road will eventually turn to a skin track where it approaches the head of the valley (headwaters of Shannon Creek). You will cross two major avalanche paths and then ascend a section of steep forest. You will arrive at our first bootpack and need to fix skis to your pack. After finishing the boot pack, you will continue skinning into the alpine bowls below Sky Pilot.
 
Arriving in a major bowl, you will be greeted by Powder Paul, one of our volunteers at a major Transition Point/Intersection. This is the point where the loops break off from each other. All courses will continue up the skin track to the high point of the course. Ascending to the high point, you emerge from the trees and arrive in alpine terrain, ascending up the lower Stadium Glacier. Our high point volunteer, Stano, will then direct you to remove skins and ski down the alpine gully below. 
 
You will take the “Down” skin track as directed by Powder Paul, a short (45m+) ascent to the top of the Pillow Gully Descent. This is a nice chute through the trees that takes you right to Shannon Creek. Watch carefully for course markings as you descend as the track turns slightly RIGHT of fall line. Ski tracks might go straight but you need to stick to the red wands that take you right. You’ll do a little bit of side stepping and traversing and then a short bootpack (skis can be carried in hand or fixed to pack) will take you up to the Sky Pilot Valley Road. 
 
Short Course racers will then be directed to ski down the road and back to the the Finish line!
 
Long Course racers will be directed uphill and repeat the lap.
 
The 2km road section returning to the gondola is again recommended to be skated but it is very slightly uphill in this direction. If you’re wiped out from racing, it’s absolutely fine to put on skins to return to the finish line. 
 
NOTE: the section of course between the Start/Finish and the head of the valley will have uphill traffic at the start of the race and downhill traffic at the finish. Therefore, we will be marking it with alternating green and red pin flags. The rest of the course will use the conventional marking system, green for ascent with skins, yellow for ascent on foot, and red for descent without skins. 

We will do OUR BEST to follow this route. If avalanche conditions dictate a change of course, this will be communicated to athletes via email (based on registration), through our event Facebook Page, and at the pre-race meeting. Please do follow these resources during the lead-up to the race and don’t be surprised by any changes. We will be sending out updates whenever possible!

Planned course, Google Earth view (does not include groomed road approach coming from bottom of image):

CAN I DO THIS?

This course will be challenging for all participants and while it intended for first time racers, it is NOT a good time for someones first time on backcountry skis. Racers in both courses will experience very challenging skin tracks (on the ascent) that will be frustrating for beginner ski tourers. The descents will range from open alpine bowls to tight trees in steep chutes. If you cannot execute a turn in close proximity to trees OR are unable to sideslip around obstacles, this race is not for you. If you are comfortable dropping into Couloir Extreme on Blackcomb Mountain, you should find this reasonable.

Because of time limitations for both volunteers (we don’t want them to freeze) and the S2SG (the last download of the evening is at 5:00pm), we will have strict time cutoffs that ensure all athletes have returned to the finish line within three hours. For athletes registered in the Long Course, if you reach the cutoff point (announced at pre-race meeting) beyond that time, you will be directed to continue via the short course and included in those results.

What if the weather sucks or avi conditions are bad?

We’re going to do everything in our power to make this race happen. That being said, the nature of the event makes it very susceptible to weather and conditions. Here’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • If the avalanche danger in the South Coast region is “High” or “Extreme”, the race will be delayed (to March 11th) or cancelled. 
  • In the days leading up to the event, our organizers will be preparing the course with our guide team who is responsible for ensuring competitor safety. They will be forecasting avalanche risk throughout the course on specific features. If certain terrain features are deemed unsafe, the course may be changed or cancelled (EVEN if the avalanche is not High or Extreme). 
  • We are blessed with butt-loads of snow on the South Coast. With that blessing comes the curse of occasionally high freezing levels and rain. The course is at risk from rain opening up creeks and other issues that might make the course nearly impassable. If that happens, we may be forced to cancel. If it’s pouring rain during the race, we may delay or cancel. If it rains and then everything freezes rock hard, we may delay or cancel. 
  • By registering, you acknowledge that all this is a possibility!

You might be getting the idea that there’s a lot that could go wrong. We’ve got plans in place to deal with bad conditions but if safety becomes an issue, we’re not taking any risks. We will be VERY communicative via race social media/email list/website about any anticipated issues so you won’t be surprised. It’s the event’s first year so bear with us and let’s make it rad!