Life On The Ski Mountaineering World Cup Circuit

This month G3 is celebrating women in the backcountry, and who better to start with than Canada's only Ski Mountaineer racer to podium on the World Cup Circuit? Mel Bernier dishes out the inside scoop on what life is like on the Ski Mountaineering World Cup Circuit...

Racing on the World Cup circuit has been a winter reality of mine for a few years now. While the sport is slowly growing in Canada,  the best athletes and races in the discipline are in Europe, so it’s a great excuse to travel overseas and explore new terrain. But what does a season like this involves?

Fill Your Pockets Full of Powder Days While You Can

This year, we were blessed with a great start to the season in BC, Canada. The snowpack was deep and stable pretty early on so before leaving for Euroland, in the name of training of course, I had a lot of amazing deep and steep days. You never know what you’re going to get in the Alps so skiing as much as possible before leaving is a must! (Image: Mel's Backyard. Photo by Bob Walker).

Pack Up and Go

Snow or no snow, you gotta go!  When I arrived in France mid-January, it was pretty clear that some creativity and imagination would be required to find some fun skiing. While training can take place on a groomed runs even if it’s just 500m long, my backcountry skier’s heart requires more than that to be fulfilled. Leaving perfect BC snow broke my heart but going to the Alps is far from being rough living!

Get Ready for Some International Action

Even if it’s called the World Cup Circuit, the races usually take place between Andorra, France, Switzerland and Italy. Living in a bag, packing, unpacking, resting and resting some more becomes part of the reality. Once it’s game on, that’s all we do! Fortunately, I bring work with me to keep my mind thinking about more than just racing. While we train pretty much all year long for those races, you never know what’s going to happen on race day. Happy or sad face, podium or DNF, heavy or light legs, health and energy or sniffles and fever. No matter what, with time and experience, I know now it’s about the journey and NOT so much about RACE DAY. In the end, you have to find it in you to let go and realize you are in a different country doing what you love!

Racing on grass in Italy.
Melanie Bernier

Discover New Spots

Much of the experience for me is about going back to some hidden backcountry gems or discovering new places.  Some valleys have stolen my heart over the years; the Beaufortain being one of them but of course, Chamonix is on top of the list. Dramatic, steep, breathtaking, it's no wonder why Chamonix is the birthplace of mountaineering.

Early morning training is a must
Melanie Bernier

Get Ready to Make Some New Friends and Share with Old Ones

Sunny days, a beautiful route plan and a good group of people is gauranteed fun, even in dodgy breakable crust.  Add in a few steep couloirs and après sitting under the sun in short sleeves and you just got yourself a perfect training day!

Look Forward to Going Home

Each trip comes to an end and leaving the beautiful Alps to go back to Canada is part of an annual reality. It’s far from being the end of the winter and I certainly look forward to many deep snow days to come, seeing my friends and enjoying cheaper maple syrup.  I simply bring with me more race experience, ski stories and memories while thinking about the adventures to come in the next few months.

That’s what the reality of backcountry racing is to me! I continue to love it and enjoy seeing it grow in popularity over here in North America. Spread the word ladies, I look forward to sharing the sport with you and your ski partners. 

Melanie Bernier

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