Skimo Scotland are in the final stages of preparing for the 2013/2014 ski mountaineering race season, which kicks off just after Christmas. It's designed to appeal to all ski mountaineers, from the seriously competitive to the merely recreational.
The race series was set up in the 2012 by people who are passionate about ski mountaineering and racing.
'It evolved from racing [badly] on the international circuit but what we lacked in physical performance we made up for in enthusiasm' explains Skimo's Di Gilbert.
'The sport is highly addictive and we wanted to introduce the sport to the UK, where we could provide a series of competitive races for UK based skimo racers but also an introduction to recreational ski mountaineers who haven't raced before. All the races happen towards the end of the day, followed by a meal and a prize ceremony.'
Ski mountaineering racing combines athletic skiing with mountaineering skills incorporating technical ascents and descents. There are different types of courses ranging from vertical races when racers skin uphill over a set distance to courses that have short steep sections which require the racers to put their skis on their backpacks, combined with technical downhill sections. Competitors are supplied with an equipment list which must be carried over the distance.
'The unpredictable Scottish ski conditions are always going to be the biggest challenge, but working closely with Ski Patrol (we have to remain within Ski Patrol boundaries for insurance purposes) we are able to manipulate the courses as much as possible to suit the ever changing mountain conditions' says Di.
The race series kicks off with the Mountain Spirit Lecht 2090 race on Saturday 28th December.
The Lecht 2090 race is a perfect introduction to the Skimo Scotland race season, say the organisers. This is a 2.2km course with 113m ascent and 113m descent, climbing the summer mountain bike track before descending the piste under the Snowy Owl Chairlift. Racers have 90 minutes to complete as many laps as possible.
On 25 January the series moves to Deeside for the 5km Braemar Mountain Sports Glenshee race, which includes a descent of the infamous Tiger, next to the Cairnwell Chairlift.
Saturday 22 February it's the Mountain Hardwear Glencoe race, a 6 km course with 780m ascent and descent including, conditions permitting, the Fly Paper - the steepest in-bounds run in Scotland at an average incline of 42 degrees.
Then on Sunday 23 February it's the Macpac Nevis Range Vertical, a unique course in the race series since no descent is included. From the Snowgoose Restaurant racers skin uphill to the top of the Summit Run, a 1.85km long course with 545m of ascent. Last year Paul Cornforth set a strong course record of 00:27:58.
Saturday 22 March is the last and biggest course of the series, the Cairngorm Mountain Supplies Nevis Range race covering 6.64km and 763m ascent and descent.
Last year's series male winner Paul Cornforth has already signed up to defend his title - one to beat?
For more info see the Skimo Scotland website.