2016 U.S. Skyrunner Series Schedule Announced

US Skyrunner Series logoThe U.S. Skyrunner Series will take place for the third time in 2016. This national-level series, which is operated under its parent, the International Skyrunning Federation, is offered in an attempt to globalize Skyrunning-style racing. In 2015, there were 15 national-level Skyrunning series around the world, including in the U.S. (In a couple of cases, a two or more countries combined to offer a single series in the name of concentrating competition.)

In this article, we review the Skyrunning concept, list the 2016 U.S. Skyrunner Series schedule, and discuss a couple notable changes to this year’s schedule.

Skyrunning Series Primer

The International Skyrunning Federation now has many different kinds of races going at variable tiers and distances that it can seem confusing, so here’s a primer for the different levels that will be found in 2016.

At the highest level is the Skyrunning World Championships, which occurs every four years; last occurred in 2014 at the Mont Blanc Vertical KM, Marathon, and 80k in Chamonix; and is meant to be the decider for the best Skyrunning-style runners worldwide.

The next tier below is the Skyrunning World Series, an annual international-level series that’s been going on for a while now. The Skyrunner World Series has three disciplines, Vertical Kilometer, SkyMarathon, and Ultra SkyMarathon. The 2016 world series has not yet been announced.

For 2016, Skyrunning Continental Championships will take place for the second year, of which the North American Skyrunning Continental Championship is part. Basically, this seems like Skyrunning’s attempt to gather people for racing on a level that’s above the national series (see below for a description of the national-level series) but below the world series. Also of note for runners participating in the Skyrunner World Series (SWS) in 2016, points earned in one continental-championship race count toward your SWS point total in addition to three races in the SWS itself. Like all the other Skyrunning racing levels, athletes can compete in the Vertical Kilometer, SkyMarathon, and Ultra SkyMarathon disciplines in the continental championships. While we know what the North American wing of the continental championships will be (see in the schedule below), the entire 2016 continental series from around the world has not yet been announced.

Then, these national-level series, including the U.S. Skyrunner Series, began appearing in earnest in 2014. Just like in the tiers above, the three disciplines of Vertical Kilometer, SkyMarathon, and Ultra SkyMarathon are competed for at the national level.

2016 U.S. Skyrunner Series Schedule

Here’s the 2016 U.S. Skyrunner Series schedule:

SkyMarathon Division

Ultra SkyMarathon Division

  • June 19 — Tahoe Sky Ultra (50-plus km) — Lake Tahoe, California
  • August 7 — Audi Power of 4 (50 km) — Aspen, Colorado (also the 2016 North American Skyrunning Continental Championship in the Ultra division)
  • September 4 — The Rut (50 km) — Big Sky, Montana
  • September 10 — Franklin Mountains Trail Run (50 km) — El Paso, Texas
  • October 2 — Flagstaff Sky Race (55 km) — Flagstaff, Arizona

Vertical Kilometer Division

(The 2016 North American Skyrunning Continental Championship in the VK division will purportedly be held at the Mt. Albert Vertical K in Canada. Details remain forthcoming.)

Insight into Changes for the 2016 U.S. Skyrunner Season

We asked Ian Sharman, U.S. Skyrunner Series Director, about the most noteworthy changes to the 2016 schedule from this year. For 2015, the SkyMarathon and Ultra SkyMarathon disciplines had seven races, but for next year there will be just five. Here are Sharman’s thoughts on why:

Then the main reason for the switch back to five races in each distance is because this is the standard format which has been shown to concentrate the competition and make it more interesting for runners and fans alike. We had aimed to expand it to a larger number of races since the U.S. is such a large and diversified country and such things as an East and West Coast version of the Series may be possible one day, but for now five races in each discipline gives the best version of the Series.

With the 2016 race, geographic diversity decreases some, as a couple races from the East are now gone, a few from the West are introduced, and overall the series concentrates in the West. We asked Sharman about why, and here’s how he answered:

Overall, we focus on races that are high alpine, rugged, and high altitude, so there are many more options for this on the western side of the country. We don’t want to water down the concept and style of Skyrunning just for the sake of greater geographic coverage. We could easily have had the entire Series in just one or two states, so the selection of races reflects wide variety but still sticks to our core values and covers seven different states for the eight separate event weekends.

California is somewhere we’ve aimed to include a race each year due to the huge trail running community and incredible mountains, but we couldn’t find a perfect match until now. The exact details, including the website, are currently being finalized but it has serious backing from the local community and landowners as well as major sponsors who are committing to send their athletes to help build it from year one. Once the website is ready to launch, we’ll have more details to share, but it’s being organized by Brendan Madigan of Alpenglow Sports in Tahoe City.

One last thing, it looks like scoring for the national-level series remains exactly the same in 2016 as this year, but with a little less overall cash flow for wins in single races and in the series. We’re guessing that’s simply a reflection of there being two less races offered in both the SkyMarathon and Ultra SkyMarathon divisions.

Call for Comments

  • Did you run in the 2015 Series? If so, share your thoughts on what it was like.
  • Are you considering giving any of the 2016 Series divisions a go?
  • A question to those of you who live in other countries with national-level Skyrunning series, can you tell us about your country’s series and how it’s similar to or different from the U.S.’s?
Meghan Hicks

is iRunFar.com's Senior Editor, the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running,' and a Contributing Editor at Trail Runner magazine. The converted road runner finished her first ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places. For more information on Meghan and her adventures, please visit her personal website.

There are 19 comments

  1. cmalcolm

    I believe the Whiteface sky race is actually July 9th, and may only be 19 miles. At least according to the US Sky Running Series website.

  2. @chrimess

    I totally believe that some of Sean Run Bum's courses like the Quest for the Crest were more than worthy of inclusion into the series, bummer not to have at least one included.

  3. @mark_tatum

    If there was a championship for masters it would probably increase participation from the older age groups. They seemed to be under-represented in some of the US Skyrunning events last year, compared to some other sky-type events.

  4. Aaron_Newell

    Basically U.S. Skyrunning thinks that the Southeast doesn't have mountains or trails worth putting competition on. The fact that there is only a single race east of Colorado makes me think that the organizers don't think trail running in the East is difficult enough, despite the Whiteface Skyrace having the highest ratio of Vertical/Mileage along with the most technically demanding course and conditions. My real guess is that there wasn't high enough turnout for the Eastern races last year so they got cut. Perhaps there should have been a concerted effort to inform more of the trail running community and entice typically non-competitive runners to attend races. I feel like there has been next to no money put forward by Skyrunning to make these races big enough to bring the cost of the race down to a reasonable level(more competitors = lower cost.) If you really want to attract more people then you should focus on incorporating more people(like college athletes who would bring a depth of competition rarely seen in trail races in the US) instead of shrinking the choices and retaining the same size pool(although overall there will probably be fewer racers total now). The fact that "high altitude" is a priority in US Skyrunning is ridiculous given that only 10-15% runners in the country have access to training at altitude in any capacity. How do you expect someone to sign up for the Continental Championship that starts at 8,000ft while training at or near sea level. This is a flawed system. When UROC first started, the first race they had was at sea level to make a fair race that was dependent on trail running abilities and fitness. Not on whether or not you live in Boulder or the Colorado high country. In most of these capacities the La Sportiva Mountain Cup has done a far better job but they don't have the reputation and worldwide support that Skyrunning has. Skyrunning needs to step up to the plate and put on a race series worth going to and actually results in the best runner, not just the most acclimatized, winning.

    1. @USSkyrunning

      Our aim is to bring Skyrunning to the US, not to create just another set of trail races since there are plenty of excellent events to choose from already. As stated in the International Skyrunning Federation statutes, "Skyrunning is defined as running in the mountains above 2,000m altitude where the climbing difficulty does not exceed II° grade and the incline is over 30%." So this is the fundamental part of our mission here and means that the high alpine areas in the country are what defines Skyrunning. It's not to say there aren't beautiful or tough trails in all parts of the country, just that Skyrunning is about running high up in the mountains.

      1. benzultra

        The only challenge I believe is you relaxed those guidelines for the NY race, right? Does NY have elevations above 2000m? I can understand why people not living on the West Coast would be upset.

        1. SeanMeissner

          New York does not have elevations above 2,000m, as its high point, Mount Marcy, is 5,344', which equates to approximately 1,629m. The high point for both the Whiteface Sky Race and VK is about 4,500'. So yes, it appears that US Skyrunning did relax its 2,000m guideline for this event.

  5. Max

    Great, looks like the Rut is a 3 day format again with the 50k on the last day. I can't party for two nights in a row and execute a 50k performance hung over.

  6. @Speedgoatkarl

    No Speedgoat 50k because skyrunning actually requires a fee of $1000 to put the skyrunning logo on the race. Skyrunning also requires the RD's to put up some prize purse. It was 1000 bucks last year (could be different now), but that makes the bill for the RD to go up to 3-5000 bucks….

    What an RD gets as being part of the series is the logo on the race, the potential to have a few elite athletes show up (which is paid for mostly by the RD because he paid the 1000 buck fee), The business model is wierd.

    In regards to what Aaron says above, there are plenty of hard races and trails all over the country, I highlyi doubt skyrunning cancelled those few races, more than likely, the RD did not see any return on their money. Which makes alot of sense to me.

    Skyrunning has been attempted in the US years ago….it failed, it has better support now, but being such an odd business model, I doubt it'll last. I suppose we shall see.

    1. @USSkyrunning

      In fairness, we offer a lot more than that in terms of support for race directors, including marketing and advertising plus a very large prize purse for the overall Series. Speedgoat was never part of the US Skyrunner Series or even invited to be part of it and this is purely because it's very much Karl's event (and a quality one, at that), not something that fits in with the idea of creating Skyrunning-style events over here in the US.

      1. @USSkyrunning

        Also, we can't speak to Karl's experiences as part of the Skyrunner World Series, which was before the existence of the US Skyrunner Series. But attracting talent like Kilian was very much due to the SWS affiliation and undoubtedly boosted the race into the big leagues.

        1. @Speedgoatkarl

          Fair to say it was great to have Killian at the Speedgoat race years ago, Also, Thomas Lorblanchet, and Philip Reiter.

          With all due respect though, Killian Cheated and cut corners AFTER he was told not to. Had he run that way and was not "warned". no problem. but he showed NO respect for our race, Superstars should not be above the rules, the reason he was not paid the $3000 winning prize.

          My experience with the Skyrunning World Series was good, and I'm glad I did it. The reason I did not want to pay the fees is becuase I was mis-informed on how it worked. I was told 1-2k the following year after year one, then told it cost 5k on the second year. I did not pay because I felt I was taken advantage of. This is the ONLY reason I did not stick with the program. I do not like to be taken advantage of. I like the US skyrunning series, think it's great, but there are lots of races out there that are better. Right now, the RUT is hands down the best one, the others I"m sure are great courses, but are NEW races, ones that will pay the fee to attract a strong field. Last year we saw some new races in Georgia and Utah, but it seems like they did not get much of a return on there investment We'll see this year I guess.

          It's all mumbo jumbo though, and it's just running around the woods and mountains, bottom line, for enough money "for winners" to pay for travel.

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