2015 U.S. Skyrunner Series Schedule Announced

US Skyrunner Series logoNext 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.

SkyMarathon

Ultra SkyMarathon

  • 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

Vertical Kilometer

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.

Giveaway

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?
Meghan Hicks

is iRunFar.com's Managing Editor and the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running.' The converted road runner finished her first trail ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places.

There are 106 comments

  1. adamiata

    Too bad we couldn't get the Forest Circus to cooperate with the proposed sky races in New Hampshire. I could put together a course rivaling most others on the list in the US.

    I hope you'll cover some in the Canadian series as well, particularly on Monts Albert and Jaques Cartier in the Chic-Choc range of Quebec.

  2. Mic_Med

    Living in CT I didn't think I'd see a Skyrunning Race anywhere near me! Way to take advantage of Whiteface, excited to see this race!

  3. barwic01

    The Audi Power of 4 race has some big sponsors! It will be interesting to see how the sport develops with the influx of sponsorship dollars on a bigger level. Will every race turn into a Leadville or sellout as quick as some of the Ironman races do in triathlon?

    Races like the Georgia Death Race have already sold out yet this series was just announced. How will people wanting to do the series get entry?

    1. sharmanian

      There are still entries available in the Georgia Death Race – some were held back in anticipation of the Series announcement.

  4. Nate

    Ran the Rut VK and 50K this year. Pretty excited to see three days of racing for 2015. I'll probably have some tired legs by the time the 50K rolls around.

  5. kjz

    thanks for spelling it out in more detail! looking fwd to seeing some of the courses either as a racer or just in general exploration. :) now if only i could get a year or two gig in the alps… :) (Denver, co)

  6. walesdrgn

    I'd say I'd love to see one of these in Minnesota, but we can't really do it justice. We're all about the short, but unending, ups and downs around here

  7. tattooedandrunningit

    Living in Oxford, MS. I really would love to run the Flagstaff Sky Race. Might have to make it one of my races for 2015

  8. @msbusch

    I raced a downhill at Whiteface many, many years ago. It is indeed very steep, and in the winter, very icy. Great place for a Skyrunner race!I live near Boulder, Colorado and we have some steep stuff but nothing like Whiteface. I recommend that race for sure.

  9. noahboy2001

    It will be interesting to see if the "off-trail" aspect of these races makes it harder to secure permits for public lands. Just the thought of a single hiker cutting switchbacks makes me cringe, much less an event endorsing such behavior.

  10. Deweyontherun

    Really cool to see some east coast love! I live in Charleston SC so no mountains for me but they are within driving distance. Need to check out Table Rock Ultras, 11,500 ft of gain over 54 miles. Kicked my butt!

  11. GlennESteckler

    Don't be fooled into thinking Kendall Mountain Run in Silverton at 12 miles will be less taxing than the rest in that category. It is a steep climb with a scramble at the top – when you are at your most tired and when there is the least oxygen. And the relentless downhill is no picnic either! __Glenn S._Telluride, CO

  12. @DennisBarnhart1

    I will definitely be looking to participate in a skyrunning race this year. What better way to spend a race weekend than in pristine high places with a bunch of like minded crazies?! It is nice to see such events growing and it will hopefully provide another avenue to educate folks on why we need to preserve our amazing wide open (and up!) spaces!

  13. richardsheward

    So glad to see this come to upstate NY! Whiteface holds a special place in my heart. I've just found my goal race for early summer. Whoohoo!

    Rich
    Boston, MA

  14. Sokoloco

    So glad to hear about this race series, would be fun to run the entire series. Only if I could get more vacation time from work, haha. Great write up Meghan.

    Steve
    Austin, TX

    1. sharmanian

      We're aiming to get races in both Oregon and California, but it wasn't possible for 2015. So many great places to run, but all the ideas came up against issues with permits.

      1. mgenn

        It's understandable. Glad to hear that Oregon and California could be in the works in the future! Thanks for all of your work on the races.

  15. RL_Stormo

    Big year for Rainshadow running with Gorge Waterfalls as part of the MUC and Angel's Staircase as part of SkyRunnerSeries.
    Ryan,
    Bellingham, WA

  16. bbishop02

    After a year of training for UROC I am looking forward to running some shorter races in 2015. I plan on running in 3 of the VK races next year. More than likely they will be in the Rocky Mountain races…less travel time. Looks like an awesome year!

    BB,
    Littleton, CO

    1. SeanMeissner

      Are you sure you want to take me on, Zoo???? We both know your record when we're at the same race, and I don't even have to be running.

  17. Ben_Nephew

    While Whiteface isn't the highest peak in the Adirondacks, it is uniquely isolated from the rest of the higher summits, there are no real sister summits close by, and this makes it a very impressive peak.

    I think it is possible to design courses, especially skyrunning courses, that can handle large fields without major damage to the environment. In going steep and high, you can take advantage of rock slides and other exposed areas and avoid considerable mileage on softer terrain more prone to damage. Has anyone researched the effects of the Spartan Races on Killington? Considering it is in VT, I would have expected some stories to come out if the races were causing substantial damage. I've raced there on the second day of races after rain, and the established trails were still in great shape. I highly doubt any of the longer skyrunning races will get the type of traffic the Spartan races get. Killington seems like another great option for a skyrace.

    If the Whiteface course has not been finalized yet, I'd like to make a request for it to be as hard as possible given the venue; take full advantage of the opportunity of hosting a race at Whiteface. With the IAU Trail Championship races, there were complaints that the races in Serre Chevalier and Connemara were too hard, and these were coming from athletes who favor easier terrain. The response was the course in Wales, which paled in comparison to Serre Chevalier (a former skyrace) and Connemara. There are plenty of opportunities for mild to moderate courses in the Northeast, so I'd rather see a very hard course rather than one that is compromised to try and attract more runners. They surely don't try and make things easier at the Spartan races, and they tend to attract decent sized fields….

    For the different series and scoring, it seems to be overly complicated. It shouldn't require an extensive explanation, and one of the things I enjoy about competitive running is its simplicity. I'm not sure imitating bike racing is an improvement. If you want a true international championship, there needs to be a system to choose and support teams from each country.

    1. sharmanian

      Ben, the Skyrunner National Series concept is merely a way to extend the huge Skyrunner World Series. The Continental Championship races are an additional factor brought in so that runners planning to compete in the SWS have an extra event closer to home. In essence, that's all there is to it.

      The Skyrunning World Championships are an extra level but only occur every 4 years and this is separate to the annual races creating an Olympic-style concept. (Note there have been discussions about Skyrunning becoming a Olympic sport but that would basically require standardizing races into loops on a bmx-style course, so it would completely miss the point of Skyrunning).

      1. Ben_Nephew

        Thanks, Ian. The comments about the bmx style course are exactly what I was talking about with the latest IAU race in Wlales. The fact that we could see Snowdon and the surrounding peaks just added insult to injury, especially after I got to run in that area this past summer.

        What are your thoughts on the support for large races in Europe, but an inability to get similar permits in the US? I know there is one school that thinks that Europe doesn't protect it's alpine areas, but I don't agree with that.

        1. sharmanian

          Ben, I don't think the European Alps have been spoilt or damaged by the way they're open to hikers, runners and others. It's an excellent model of how lots of people can get to enjoy the mountains. In the US I'd argue that the mountains have been destroyed more by humans – just look at the pollution and debris left over from mining operations, like in the San Juans. Currently I don't see trail runners causing damage to the mountains…in fact it's the opposite, like with the tens of thousands of hours of volunteer work on the WS100 trail which probably wouldn't happen without the race.

          1. Ben_Nephew

            Considering that the growth of many of these events is entirely dependent on permits, it might be useful for Skyrunning to put together some sort of promotional package for potential or current US events that consists of assessments from Euro environmental agencies on allowable field sizes, the impact of the larger Skyraces on the trails, before and after pics of the major race courses, etc?

  18. grants845

    The Audi Power of 4 races should be really impressive. I'm glad to see that they added a vk this year. The new races this year should all be very impressive. But I'm really sad to see Speedgoat off the list!

    Grant Saunders,
    Louisville, Colorado

  19. zeppel49

    I ran Crystal Mountain Sky Marathon this year it was awesome, Sky running is the best thing that happened to running, Crystal Mountain was also my first sky run, and I'm hooked, planning on running Angel Staircase, the Rut, Kendall Mountain and Crystal Mountain in 2015, can't wait to see where the sky will take us all

  20. Nick Underwood

    Whiteface should be awesome. The extremely technical trails found in the Adirondacks fit perfectly with the Skyrunning ethos. Anyone traveling to the Whiteface races should check out the Great Range Traverse close by, one of the coolest runs I've ever done!

    Nick
    Queensbury, NY

  21. JBryant305

    I'd be lying if I said I wasn't extremely disappointed that Speedgoat is no longer a Skyrunning race. I mean for thousands of us Americans it was the race that introduced us to Skyrunning and no longer is deemed worthy of such status? What gives? Maybe this sport IS becoming too big and too commercialized after all. I understand that new races are good, but you don't neglect your roots.

  22. throwerbt

    I tell you what, the Quest for the Crest race is going to be insane! Three 3000 ft+ climbs and descents on a point to point course that tops out over 6500 ft elevation! Now what is all this talk about the east coast not having big mountains?

  23. justinhong

    Moving up to Upstate NY soon and excited to hear about Whiteface! Hopefully I can make it.

    Justin
    Watertown, NY (currently Columbus, GA)

  24. Tim Kojetin

    Living in Denver, it looks like I have some nice road trips lined up for the Power of Four in Aspen and the Tushar in Utah. 2015 is going to be full of fun mountain running adventures.

    Tim
    Denver, Colorado

  25. brendansoule

    Any of those DEATH races sound pretty badass… Never heard of the Georgia version, but I imagine it's a whole different ballgame than the Canadian death race…

    Brendan
    Portland, OR

  26. greenie050608

    I cannot wait for the 2015 U.S. Skyrunner Series. Excited to see some events going on in New York! East coast, beast coast! Stay up!

    Nick G
    New York, New York.

  27. caseyspengel

    As someone who grew up in Arizona and always loved spending time in Flagstaff, it's great to see it with a prominent place in the series – what a great town and wonderful place to visit.

    Casey
    San Francisco, CA

  28. rundeanrun

    A new running series is always a great thing. I hope to ramp up my fitness to hit Flagstaff next year.

    Dean Johnson
    Scottsdale, AZ

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