Next year will bring a second year of operation to the U.S. Skyrunner Series, as part of the International Skyrunning Federation’s continued attempt to globalize and bring its kind of running mainstream. Including the United States, Skyrunning says that some 30-odd countries now have their own national-level series.
The 2015 U.S. Skyrunner Series will have some familiar races, as well as some new ones. Races back for more include the The Rut Lone Peak Vertical Kilometer and The Rut 50k for the Ultra SkyMarathon discipline, but race directors Mike Wolfe and Mike Foote will also introduce a middle-distance The Rut Sky Race for the SkyMarathon discipline. Side note, all three of these races will be part of both the 2015 Skyrunner World Series and U.S. Skyrunner Series. Out went Speedgoat 50k as part of both the Skyrunner World Series and the U.S. Skyrunner Series, and in came the Power of Four 50k to serve as part of the U.S. Skyrunner Series and as the North American Skyrunning Continental Championship in the Ultra SkyMarathon discipline. Also in come some interesting races out of New York, the Whiteface Vertical Kilometer and the Whiteface Sky Marathon, both directed by Ian Golden and Jan Wellford, as well as the Tushar Sky Race 39k and 93k, which will be part of the respective SkyMarathon and Ultra SkyMarathon disciplines of the U.S. Skyrunner Series.
Skyrunning Series Primer
The International Skyrunning Federation now has so 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 2015.
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 2015 series was just unveiled last week, and we described it in this article. The Skyrunner World Series has three disciplines, Vertical Kilometer, SkyMarathon, and Ultra SkyMarathon.
For 2015, continental championships, which we explained in a bit more detail when the concept was unveiled last week, are being introduced, 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 2015, points earned in one continental championship race can 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. (The VK is only found in the European and North American continental championships in 2015.)
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.
2015 U.S. Skyrunner Series Schedule
Below lists the schedule for the U.S. Skyrunner Series, with a few notes on races that overlap as part of either the North American Skyrunning Continental Championship and the Skyrunner World Series.
- June 28 — Whiteface SkyMarathon (26 miles) — Wilmington, New York
- July 18 — Kendall Mountain Run (12 miles) — Silverton, Colorado
- August 1 — Tushar (39 km) — Tushar Mountains, Utah
- August 9 — Angels Staircase (35 km) — Carlton, Washington
- September 5 — The Rut (25 km) — Big Sky, Montana (also part of the Skyrunner World Series)
- September 19 — Crystal Mountain Sky Marathon (26 miles) — Crystal Mountain, Washington
- October 3 — Flagstaff Sky Race (39 km) — Flagstaff, Arizona (also the North American Skyrunning Continental Championship)
- March 14 — Georgia Death Race (68 miles) — Vogel State Park, Georgia
- May 30 — Quest for the Crest (50 km) — Burnsville, North Carolina
- July 19 — Audi Power of 4 (50 km) — Aspen, Colorado (also the North American Skyrunning Continental Championship)
- August 1 — Tushar (93 km) — Tushar Mountains, Utah
- August 8 — Angels Staircase (60 km) — Carlton, Washington
- September 5 — The Rut (50 km) — Big Sky, Montana (also part of the Skyrunner World Series)
- October 3 — Flagstaff Sky Race (55 km) — Flagstaff, Arizona
- May 30 — Quest for the Crest VK — Burnsville, North Carolina
- June 27 — Whiteface VK — Wilmington, New York
- July 18 — Audi Power of 4 VK — Aspen, Colorado
- September 4 — Lone Peak VK — Big Sky, Montana (also part of the Skyrunner World Series)
- October 4 — Flagstaff Sky Race VK — Flagstaff, Arizona (also the North American Skyrunning Continental Championship)
2015 U.S. Skyrunner Series Award Structure
The following is quoted from the press release announcing the prize money and award structure for the 2015 series:
The three best results in each Series discipline are scored in the overall ranking for each
runner. Ranking points in the final races of all three Series are increased by 20% then rounded. In the result of a tie for a podium position, head-to-head results are considered with the Series
final as the most important result.
Ranking points breakdown: 100-88-78-72-68-66-64-62-60-58-56-54-52-50 down to 1 point.
Scoring goes down to 40th position for men and women.
Total prizes: Over $50,000 available across the entire Series with prizes up to $5,000. Every
race has prize money.
More Insight on the 2015 U.S. Skyrunner Series
To get a little more insight on the inner workings and intent of the 2015 U.S. Skyrunner Series, we made a couple inquiries with Ian Sharman, the series director, and directors of a few races specifically. The following are a collection of their thoughts.
On the changes to the U.S. Skyrunner Series calendar from its inaugural 2014 and this coming year, Ian Sharman says:
The idea is to create a series of races that are truly like the epic Skyrunning events in Europe, so there’s inevitably some change in the line-up each year. We want all the events to be designed for Skyrunning, which means some existing races have been included, but changed to include more off-piste sections and rugged terrain – this includes events like Flagstaff and Aspen. Speedgoat 50k is a great and popular race but it’s already got its own style and that includes a lot of switchbacks which can’t be altered over time given the location.
Permitting is one of the biggest challenges for Skyrunning-style events in the U.S. since public land is much harder to get permits on than in the European Alps. This means we’re using The Rut as a template where possible since that really captured the essence of Skyrunning with its beauty and ability to go straight up the side of the mountain. Private land, like at ski resorts, is generally more amenable to this type of racing so there’s a preference for this within the 2015 series.
On the introduction of the new The Rut Sky Race to the series, here’s what co-race director Mike Foote says about the expected course:
The 25k race will be another true sky race integrating the alpine sections of the 50k, including the Headwaters ridge and the Lone Peak summit. We are still solidifying the exact course, but participants can expect at least 8,000 feet of climbing in the race.
On the new U.S. Skyrunner Series events to be hosted in New York, here are what race directors Ian Golden and Jan Wellford have to say:
New York, yeah, not the first thought of where you go for vert. So, yeah, we’re pretty excited. No doubt achieving cumulative vertical gain is a bit slimmer in pickings in the East, partly just due to lower true vertical of the mountains themselves, and partly due to the public preservation of many of the peaks that we do have. Whiteface as an alpine resort offers the highest continuous vertical drop of any resort in eastern North America. It comes in at 15th overall in North America for ski resorts with 3,216 feet of true vertical descent/gain, and, if counting a bit of permitted but non-lift-served terrain called the Slides, it takes it up to 10th, and again, that’s in all of North America. So the vertical-gain potential isn’t too difficult to achieve. We are working with about a quarter of the acreage that western resorts offer events so we do have to work a bit harder and outside the resort box to get the distance we need without much contriving or overlap. True to Skyrunning, we’ll try to serve up most of the elevation gain of the marathon in the opening four miles of each loop and round them out with use of adjacent trails on public lands that are designed and permitted for mountain-bike use.
What Whiteface brings to the table, and which is sometimes tough to find in the East, is the visual recognition of a raw or exposed mountain. It’s shear, has exposed rock faces, and provides amazing vistas of surrounding peaks, lakes, and eastern forest. It’s flanked by higher sister summits but they, as well as the true summit of Whiteface (which we really wanted but couldn’t get per [New York] Department of Energy Conservation regulations) wouldn’t fly with organized races. We’re really thankful that Whiteface, operated by the Olympic Regional Development Authority, and its General Manager, Aaron Kellet, have been totally supportive.
Indeed with looking toward ski resorts [for Skyrunning and other race territory in the U.S.]. As the sport grows, those doing the organizing and serving, for better or worse, as promoters of that growth, have to be mindful of the impact brought to the table. On alpine resorts, the damage to an extent has been done and trails are designed to handle volume. The use of percentages of coveted singletrack may be sacrificed but in doing so those events help to preserve what singletrack there is in that region by shifting the masses to areas that can handle it. This is especially vital in a fluctuating or changing climate where, at least in New York the past couple of years, the rains are coming heavier and less predictably. Races which happen to coincide with heavy rains, even if long-standing trail networks, are leaving a greater impact. It’s also the case that resorts, as with host towns, are able to receive a direct economic gain from hosting the event while accommodating needed amenities like parking and lodging. But one of the biggest draws is the flexibility in route creation that resorts offer events. Especially in the East where there aren’t as large and prevalent of swaths of public land able to be used for events, resorts make it not just convenient, but viable at all.
Whiteface Vertical Weekend will be a production of Red Newt Racing, only formally just established. Entrants, though, will have to wait in anticipation for maps and specifics pending DEC and mountain negotiations on what can and can’t be used. Without a doubt, though, it’ll be epic by East Coast standards, and legit on a national scale. Whiteface is stoked to enter into the Skyrunning fold, and, honoring its Olympic heritage, share a pretty amazing part of the world with the world.
We asked Ian Sharman for a few more details on prize-money distribution for individual races as well as the overall series:
The prize money at each event is set by the race directors, with a minimum of $1,000 for each of the male and female winners in the largest event of the weekend. The exact amount at some races could exceed this and may increase by race day, especially in the more prominent races.
The total prize money on offer at all the races in the U.S. Skyrunner Series is excess $50,000, including the Series-level prizes. The overall Series has a prize of $5,000 for the winners of the Ultra category and $1,500 for the Sky category with money for the entire podium. All podium winners for each Series discipline also get free entries to the following year’s races in the same discipline.
It’s not all racing at these races. The Rut’s after party last year was pretty exciting, with a mechanical bull, costumes, and let’s just say, ahem, a fair bit of beer. The Montana Mikes want to go bigger for 2015, says Mike Foote:
As for the after party, we have definitely set the bar high and it’s exciting to think about next year. We’ve tossed around some ideas, including iRunFar live tweeting the party, fog machines, a drinking game involving blow-up elk decoys and toy bow and arrows. Let’s just say, we are invested in the success of our second-annual #RutRager.
After seeing the unveiling of the Skyrunning continental championship concept last week, we were a bit confused. At first we expected it to connect the various Skyrunning tiers more closely than it appears to, perhaps funneling support down to athletes who perform well at the various levels so that the athletes themselves can then funnel up and compete at higher-level events. This doesn’t seem to be the case, so we asked Ian, who will be directing the North American Skyrunning Continental Championship, what the intent/goals are of this mid-level competition:
The purpose of the continental championships is to create more high-profile, super-competitive races which allow runners to score towards the Skyrunner World Series (SWS) without having to travel as far. Europeans have long had the advantage of being able to race exclusively in their home continent to score in the SWS, so this goes some way to evening things up for the rest of the world.
The effect on the Skyrunner national series in the countries which host a continental championship (like the U.S.) is that there’s an additional race in each discipline with world-class competition which brings more attention to the whole series so that more runners can find out about this version of running which they probably haven’t experienced before. The reaction from runners at The Rut last year was priceless–I saw many people describe it as the toughest event they’ve run, while simultaneously grinning and swearing to return next year and try out other similar events.
The continental championship doesn’t necessarily count for extra points towards the U.S. Skyrunner Series, but Flagstaff (the continental championship for Sky and VK disciplines) is also the final of the whole U.S. Series so that has a 20% point bonus. It effectively means that anyone aiming for the prize money in the U.S. Series needs to include Flagstaff and anyone in North America aiming for the SWS needs to include the continental championship for their discipline (either Aspen or Flagstaff).
The verdict is still out for us on whether or not the idea of the continental championship actually makes things easier for a runner to score in the Skyrunner World Series, or whether the continental championship will function more to spread the Skyrunning word. That’s because, in previous years, runners were scored based on three world-series races in a single discipline. For 2015, a runner can earn points in three world series events plus their continental championship for their discipline. So last year, a U.S. runner wanting to participate in the world series Ultra SkyMarathon discipline, for example, could have run Speedgoat 50k and The Rut 50k in the U.S., and traveled abroad once for another race. Whereas this year, to travel the minimum amount while running the maximum number of scoring races, they will have to participate in the Power of 4 50k for the continental championship, The Rut 50k which is part of the World Series, and then travel abroad twice for more scoring races.
Update, November 10, 5 p.m. MST: The contest is now closed. Thanks to everyone who entered and congrats to our winners David Reddel of Nebraska and Brad Williams of Colorado.
Call for Comments
- What are your thoughts on the 2015 U.S. Skyrunner Series schedule?
- Do you think you’ll participate in at least one race of the series? If so, which one?
- Did you run in any of the U.S. Skyrunner Series races this year? If so, what do you think?