Ski Canada Magazine
SKIMO GOES TO THE OLYMPICS
Backcountry skiing has almost completed its transformation from granola to gold. In July, the International Olympic Committee unanimously approved the inclusion of Ski Mountaineering, basically competitive backcountry skiing, as five new medal events starting at the 2026 Winter Games in Milano/Cortina, Italy.
“The announcement is not a huge surprise,” says Matt Reid, the chair of Ski Mountaineering Competition Canada, the national sport governing body. “This has been in the works for a long time. But it is great news.”
Skimo has been popular in Europe for a century, but it’s only in the last decade that race circuits have emerged on this side of the pond. At the 2026 Olympics, Ski Mountaineering athletes will compete in five events. Men and women will each race individual and sprint events. The longer individual races consist of several transitions between skinning, bootpacking and skiing as the athletes gain roughly 1,500m and cover about 15 km in two hours. In contrast, the spectator-friendly sprint event, created in part for the Olympics, takes only three to five minutes, but still involves several transitions. The fifth event is a mixed-gender team relay on the sprint course.
While Canadians have stood on the podium at World Cup races, they will be long shots for medals in a sport dominated by athletes from Europe. The increased sport funding that should come from the Olympic inclusion will help get more Canadians to European races, says Reid, which will help make them more competitive and deepen the domestic athlete pool. “I’m hoping the Olympics will create more appeal for youth and their parents. It will give them something to chase.”
Making the sport more accessible will also help. Most races encourage newbies and several include gear borrow or renting. And there have never been more opportunities to give the sport a try. Says Reid, “The race calendar has never been so full.”
Mo’ skimo: smcc.ski