Returns from SMWC in Switzerland
By Nicolette Toussaint
Sopris Sun Correspondent
Despite nursing a bad chest cold during the Ski Mountaineering World Championships, Carbondale native Lindsay Plant turned in finishing times that would make her hometown proud. She ranked 14th in the vertical event, 20th in individual competition and sixth in the women’s team event, where she was partnered with her friend and training partner Jessie Young of Aspen.
Recalling the February competition in Verbier, Switzerland, Plant told The Sopris Sun, “It’s extremely thrilling and pretty surreal. It was such a cool experience. It’s such a big sport over there. It was an endorphin rush, just amazing.”
Ski mountaineering is a combination of ski touring, telemark and backcountry skiing, and mountaineering. “It’s a really challenging sport. It takes a lot of training and it’s hard,” Plant admits. And the road to the Mountaineering World Championships is both long and competitive; the U.S. sends only about 16 competitors. To qualify for the team, athletes must rack up points and standing in a series of races held in this country.
Plant, 32, wanted to compete in the World Championships two years ago, but became pregnant with her daughter, who is now 18 months old. The championships are held every other year, so this year and last, Plant went to “as many races as possible” to qualify. After competing at Irwin and Crested Butte in Colorado, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming this year, she achieved the top ranking among women who qualified to go to Switzerland. (One woman, who ranked above Plant, couldn’t go).
Plant, who works as a medical assistant at Glenwood Medical Associates, said that having a bad chest cold and cough “was a bummer. But I still able to perform well and I was happy with my results.” Since the town of Verbier is situated at 4,921 feet above sea level, “ it’s low compared to us.” She said, “I felt like I had more oxygen than I was used to.”
Plant said that the vertical event, which combines skinning up and skiing down more than 4,500 vertical feet, is the “most sought-out” event, and the experience of the huge crowd cheering the competitors on was “amazing.”
Blogger Chad Brackelsberg, who lives in Park City, Utah, described Plant’s vertical race this way: “For the women, Lindsay Plant, Meredith Edwards, and Jari Kirkland would be racing … All of the team looked strong as they passed through the streets of Verbier. Many of us jumped on the gondola to get to the top to cheer on the team as they finished. The number of people lining the streets and the finish line was amazing. In the US, we may have a handful of spectators, here there were thousands!”
Looking to 2017
Plant is already planning for the next World Championships, to be held in 2017. She trains with a large group of Roaring Fork Valley ski mountaineers. “My training is just getting out on my skis for a high intensity workout,” she says. “I do long vertical climbs, and it has to be quality over quantity because I work and I have my daughter.”
Plant grew up in Carbondale and learned to ski when she was about three years old. She didn’t ski through her entire childhood, but took a few years off and played sports. She returned to skiing in her 20’s, and was introduced to ski mountaineering by her boyfriend, Brian Edmiston, who has been racing for more than a decade. “When I met him I was into skinning, but he got me into racing,” she said.
Ski mountaineering requires specialized equipment, much of which comes from her sponsorship through La Sportiva, as well as Cripple Creek Backcountry in Carbondale. “My boots are 555 grams, extremely light. They are full-on downhill boots, but made for this sport. They are stiff so they ski well,” she explained.
“My goal is really just to push myself. To find out how well I can do, how strong I can become. There are a of couple pretty big races in Europe I would like to compete in — a handful annually or every other year. I just love the challenge.”