What is Skimo, How to Do It, and Where to Go?

Folks at the starting line of a skimo race

Skimo stands for ski mountaineering, which is simply climbing and skiing mountains. Today, the modern sport of Skimo has taken on a different form, although it’s still rooted in the traditional definition of ski mountaineering.

Skimo is all about moving fast and light. It’s an endurance sport that heavily revolves around racing up and down mountains on skis either at a ski resort or in the backcountry. If you enjoy winter trail running or skate skiing, you’ll probably love skimo. You can think of it as “fitness skinning.” It’s a great cardio workout and excellent cross training for summer sports like trail running, mountain biking, and climbing.

In a skimo race competitors will race uphill using climbing skins. Steep, technical sections of the course sometimes require racers to carrying and use crampons. You can imagine the level of fitness you need for this sport – you’re literally racing up a ski slope! Not only is skimo physically demanding, it’s technical too – you need to be skilled at quick transitions (skinning to skiing and vice versa) and be strong downhill skier.

On a fundamental level, skimo is similar to a bike race or an ultramarathon. It requires the same level of fitness, stamina, and endurance. Throw in a little downhill skiing and you’ve got the makings of an exciting, tough event.

What gear do you need?

You could use your backcountry skis and boots, but it would be like trying to run a marathon in hiking boots. It kind of works, but you’ll be a heck of a lot faster with some light trail runners on your feet.

For skimo skis and boots, we recommend the TLT X boots from Dynafit and Blizzard Zero G 85 skis. This setup can get you up the hill in a hurry, can ski the Eastern Sierra or Shasta, and still have tons of power and fun.

Dynafit TLT X Boot
Blizzard Zero G 85

These products are what we stock and support in Tahoe Mountain Sports. There are many other options for skimo gear, which you can peruse here. If you’re interested in putting together a skimo setup, come by the shop. We are happy to help you find the right gear and best products for your needs. If you’re not ready to purchase a new setup, both of these setups are available to rent at TMS.

Ready to try Skimo?

Mark your calendar and get your heart rate up at these upcoming skimo events!

Luggi Foeger Uphill/Downhill Festival

A not-to-miss event is the Luggi Foeger Uphill/Downhill Festival. This two-day festival is put on by Diamond Peak March 28-29.

On Saturday, there will be an uphill race using whatever human-powered method you prefer – the perfect opportunity to put your light skimo gear to the test! There will be lots of fun events all weekend long including live music, relays, boot races and more. We’ll have tons of free demos for you to try Scarpa, Dynafit, Black Diamond, Fischer and Weston (skis and splitboards). This event is all about having fun and costumes are encouraged!

Luggi Foeger Uphill/Downhill Festival

  • Date Saturday, March 23rd – Sunday, March 24th
  • Time 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
  • Location Diamond Peak Ski Resort
  • Rent a skimo setup!

    Learn more about the event and let us know you’re coming with an RSVP on Facebook.

    Sugar Bowl Uphiller

    Saturday, April 13th, 8am-2pm

    woman skiing in a pirate costume
    Formerly known as the Quadcrusher, the Sugar Bowl Uphiller is about racking up as many human-powered laps to the top of Lincoln as you can in a day, all without the help of a chairlift.
    Whether you want to do 1 lap or 10 laps, all uphillers are welcome at this event. When you need a break from all skinning, hang out with us at the pop up bars at the summit of Lincoln or the Judah Lodge. We’ll have live music, beverages, and lots of good vibes.  You can skin for the win or just skin for fun, all uphillers are welcome at this event. Costumes recommended!

    Rent the Gear

    We rent skimo skis and boots! If you can’t make any of our events but are still interested in trying out this sport, rent one of our skimo packages. There are so many ways to enjoy skimo – Sugar Bowl and Diamond Peak offer uphill tickets, you can go for a fast tour around Sunrise Bowl in Tahoe Donner, or head up Deep Creek Road off of Hwy 89.

    Stop by Tahoe Mountain Sports to reserve your skimo rental today! And check the link below to learn about what other backcountry gear we rent.

    Click here to learn about our backcountry rentals. Our fleet includes backcountry skis, splitboards, cross country skis, skimo gear, and more!

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