The 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:
- July 10 — Whiteface Sky Race (19 miles) — Wilmington, New York
- July 23 — Kendall Mountain Run (12 miles) — Silverton, Colorado
- September 3 — The Rut (25 km) — Big Sky, Montana
- September 17 — Crystal Mountain Sky Marathon (26 miles) — Crystal Mountain, Washington
- October 1 — Flagstaff Sky Race (39 km) — Flagstaff, Arizona (also the 2016 North American Skyrunning Continental Championship in the Sky 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
- June 18 — Tahoe VK — Lake Tahoe, California
- July 9 — Whiteface VK — Wilmington, New York
- August 6 — Audi Power of 4 VK — Aspen, Colorado
- September 2 — Lone Peak VK — Big Sky, Montana
- October 1 — Flagstaff Sky Race VK — Flagstaff, Arizona
(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?