Triathlete’s Guide to SkiMo – Triathlete

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Ski mountaineering (SkiMo) is a marginal sport that is becoming less and less marginal, especially in Europe, and has been announced as a new sport for the 2026 Winter Olympics. But it’s not just for skiers intense, it is also gaining popularity among endurance athletes looking for new ways to train in the winter.

Instead of spending hours indoors on the treadmill or trainer, SkiMo offers a complete low-impact workout in a beautiful setting. “Winter and spring are the perfect time to take your mind and body slightly away from the swim/bike/run routine, working on other very important aspects of physical and mental health that are always very conducive to good performance in triathlon,” said Davide. Giardini, former professional triathlete and manager of Boulder SkiMo Club.

The sport itself comes with many nicknames. Ascent (or rising station) refers to going up the slopes in a ski resort and going downhill on skis. Nordic skiing it’s when you head into the backcountry to more varied terrain with more ups and downs and even some flat sections. Some refer to the sport as a whole as flay, whether you are in the backcountry or at a resort. As a runner, Giardini refers to the sport as Skialp. But all versions cover some of the same basic ground we’ll cover here: going up and down mountains on skis.

RELATED: A triathlete’s guide to off-season winter sports

Why is SkiMo a great choice for triathletes?

After a full season of pounding the pavement while racing, SkiMo offers a low-impact workout that not only builds muscle, but is especially good for the cardiovascular system. Athletes often compare a few hours of SkiMo to hard training or running. “Skialp is complete, in support and against gravity, allowing to develop incredible muscle strength and bone density, which you can only dream of with traditional triathlon training,” said Giardini.

For a former professional triathlete, who loved and grew up skiing in the Dolomites in Italy, SkiMo was a no-brainer for Giardini. What attracted him after his retirement from triathlon? “The love for endurance sports that I had developed later in life, the need to do a few turns and a workout in a time efficient way due to other life commitments,” he said.

Typically done at higher altitudes, the climb provides a full body workout that helps build red blood cells as well as lung capacity, as well as core strength, all of which will pay off later.

“The optimal forward movement uphill, which activates the core unlike anything else I’ve done, helps tremendously in all three sports of triathlon,” added Giardini. Uphill work also targets some of the same traps and side muscles as swimming, and the concentric muscle contractions mimic cycling. “Skialp on the up is my secret swimming weapon,” Giardini revealed, though he swears by it for improving cycling performance, especially when climbing.

And then the descents help the body train to deal with the appearance of lactic acid. It’s also a great strength workout for the legs. “Alpine skiing is often the most overlooked benefit, but I believe one of the most important,” Giardini said. “Not only does downhill skiing primarily involve eccentric muscle contraction (the muscle lengthens as it contracts), which is the same contraction that occurs when your foot hits the ground when running, but it’s a lot of work little muscle stabilizers that don’t get used to when running.It will help keep you injury free during the season.It also increases heart rate anaerobically.

These are just the benefits of training. If you’re getting into racing – where athletes use skins to climb onto skis, then have to transition quickly downhill, and sometimes back and forth – then practicing fast, smooth and efficient transitions will also help.

How to start ski mountaineering

The best place to start with SkiMo is to head to a ski resort that allows uphill traffic. There are many advantages to starting at a resort rather than in the backcountry, especially if you’ve never done it before. Conditions are more controlled with groomed trails that are both enjoyable uphill and downhill. Avalanche mitigation also means conditions will be safer when you’re first starting out.

Uphill traffic may be restricted before the lifts open or after the lifts stop for the day, depending on location. It’s something that resorts started doing a few years ago when there were safety issues with uphill and downhill traffic colliding, especially on the more popular tracks. Many resorts have specific runs open to uphill traffic, and you may also need a ski pass or lift ticket. check it out page from USA SkiMo for your resort’s climb policy.

A SkiMo athlete. (Photo: Photo by Kai-Otto Melau/Getty Images)

SkiMo: what you need to get started

Triathletes will love the necessary equipment for SkiMo because it is light and fast, just like triathlon equipment. Just as you might want to be as light as possible for a full day in the saddle, you want to be light for a session up and down the mountain. Start by keeping it simple with a lightweight ski touring setup and the additional gear listed below.

SkiMo Equipment

Luckily, there’s no need to go out and buy all the gear before deciding if SkiMo fits into your winter training. Look for ski rental shops near resorts that handle uphill traffic, and you can test out skis suited to your abilities and conditions.

When renting your hiking gear, you’ll want to make sure you get the right bindings that handle the climbs and the descents. Alpine Touring (AT) bindings allow your heel to move freely when hiking uphill, but lock for descent. Alpine hiking boots will be lightweight and flexible. Many compare them to wearing hiking boots.

Additional gear you’ll want to make sure to get are staves and pelts. The poles should be adjustable to ensure you can shorten them for the descent. The main purpose of the skins is to give you traction as you climb the mountain, hence the term “skinning”. The skins should be wide enough to cover the skis yet long enough to give you traction all over the ski. If you’ve never tried it before, be sure to practice or ask for help on how the skins fit on your rented touring skis.

SkiMo Clothing

Many athletes start out wearing cold-weather cycling gear: a thermal base layer, pants, and a jacket. With sweating uphill and cruising downhill, you’ll want to make sure to regulate your body temperature. Winter cycling gloves will also give you the dexterity you need to hold poles. A neck warmer will also provide protection from the sun and wind.

For your safety, you will need a light helmet. Many beginners use their bicycle helmet for these first sessions, but you can also use a ski helmet. And sunglasses or ski goggles are recommended to help in sunny and snowy conditions.

Because this is a combination of uphill and downhill aerobic work, you’ll want to pack a lightweight backpack with a hydration bladder for water, snacks, and extra clothing. A backpack also allows you to easily carry skins when removing them before the descent.

Avalanche equipment

As you progress in your sport, heading into the backcountry will likely be your next step. In this case, you will need to prepare for the changing conditions by bringing avalanche equipment. Before leaving, it is recommended to take an avalanche safety course. At a minimum, a beacon, shovel, and probe should be on you if heading into the backcountry.


SkiMo is a completely different type of endurance sport than triathlon. It takes time to develop strength, speed and efficiency both uphill and downhill. Just like with triathlon training, you will become more efficient and your form will continue to improve the more you do it. “I was hooked after the first time on an uphill setup,” Giardini said. “Skialp is the best outlet I have found so far that combines so many elements that I love: endurance, skill, downhill skiing fun, outdoors, mountains, solitude, courage, ski technology. equipment and much more.”

To learn more about SkiMo, check out the resources from our sister publication SKI.

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