World class ski mountaineering racer Mel Bernier is off to compete in the European circuit where she’s eyeing the podium in World Cup and World Championship competitions.
I met Bernier at Revelstoke Mountain Resort’s mid-mountain lodge in late December, just after a morning training session skiing up the mountain’s lower slopes.
It was the middle of a cold snap, and Bernier had worked up a shiver from the sweat she earned at a training session that finished before the sun came over horizon on Mt. Mackenzie.
“I’ve put so much effort leading into this season,” Bernier said of her preparations, which included a stepped-up daily training blitz in December.
Bernier is heading to Europe for both World Cup and World Championship races. Last year she topped the world ranking at fifth following three European races, but she dropped to ninth after missing the last two races.
This year, the Canadian National Ski Mountaineering team member is planning to race in most major events, and left for an extended stay in Europe on Jan. 2.
A crowdfunding effort this fall helped her with over $6,000 to keep her going through the season, and she was buoyed by sponsorships and lots of media coverage, including in Kootenay Mountain Culture and a cover shot in Explore Magazine.
The competitive ski mountaineering scene is centred in Europe, and Bernier’s rise since switching from competitive moguls in 2006 is remarkable considering the relative isolation. There is a core ski mountaineering scene here in Revelstoke, but the lure of deep powder keeps most self-powered skiers focused on the descents, not racing up the climbs.
Bernier credits advances in her technique to improved results in recent years. While in Europe, she’ll be bunking with powerhouse French racer Laetitia Roux, a four-time Ski Mountaineering World Cup winner and holder of ten World Championship titles. Roux is at the top of the sport’s women’s rankings now.
Bernier is eyeing a top result overall, and says advances in her technique and experience on the circuit could help her get there.
You have to come strong and stay fine-tuned over the three month circuit. “It’s a condensed series of events, and there’s no room for error,” she said.
The ISMF World Cup race schedule starts at Puy Saint Vincent, France on Jan. 10–12.
Bernier will compete in the following races:
World Cup race at Puy Saint Vincent, France, Jan. 10–12. http://www.teamecrinshautesalpes.com
World Cup race at Font Blanca, Andorra, Jan. 24–25. http://www.fontblanca.ad/en
ISMF World Championships at Verbier-Val De Bagnes, Switzerland, Feb. 5–12. http://www.verbier2015.ch
World Cup race in Mount Olympus, Greece on Feb. 21. http://www.olympusskimountaineering.com
World Cup race in Val Martello, Italy on Feb. 28. http://www.marmotta-trophy.it/marmotta_tropy/de/
Pierre Menta LDT World Cup race at Areches-Beaufort, France, Mar. 11–14. http://www.grandecourse.com
Mondole Ski Alp World Cup race at Prato Nevosa, Italy, Mar. 13–15.
Bernier says she may race in smaller events while there.
After some skiing in the Alps, Bernier is back in Revelstoke to help organize a new ski mountaineering component to the Stoke to Spoke race at Revelstoke Mountain Resort. That race is April 11–12.
Check back to the Revelstoke Mountaineer for results from Bernier’s season.