The U.S. Ski Mountaineering Association travels to Monarch Mountain Feb. 13 for the fifth of nine local events this season. USSMA's Colorado COSMIC chapter rolls into Salida, Colo., after a thrilling race at Sunlight Mountain Jan. 15. Sunlight's Heathen Challenge marked the final event for racers to nab a coveted USSMA National Team spot.

Monarch's Race the Divide is sponsored by Salida Mountain Sports. The downtown Salida outdoor store is the place to find out more about the event, get registered, and pick up last-minute necessities for the technically demanding race. Participants must carry a beacon, shovel, and probe, and must wear a helmet (ski or bike) during the event. The race kicks off at 8 a.m.

Race categories include recreation, race, heavy metal, and veteran. The recreational course begins with racers placing their skis at the bottom of the K2 Organic Terrain Park for a running approach from the starting line. Racers step into their skis and begin climbing to the top of the Breezeway lift continuing on to the top of Mirkwood Bowl. After a short breather while descending Mirkwood, racers turn back around to climb up Elation Ridge and descend Mirkwood Bowl once more continuing on to the finish line.

The race, heavy metal, and veteran categories face a more intense, four-lap course. Racers begin in a running-start fashion to their skis at the bottom of the Freeway run. Racers climb up Freeway and Sleepy Hollow to Short-N-Sweet. Climbing continues to the top of Panorama lift before the first descent down High Anxiety. Lap two mirrors that of the recreation's lap one climbing up K2 Organic Terrain Park and skiing down Mirkwood. Laps three and four send racers up Elation Ridge and down Mirkwood Bowl, twice. After lap four racers ski back to the finish line.

Check out the USSMA website, if you think you have what it takes to challenge your ski mountaineering technique as well as your endurance. Information includes technique and training videos, equipment suggestions, plus race series dates and locations.

More Information: USSMA; Race the Divide.

Here's a video of Pete Swensen, past U.S.National Champ, at Sunlight Mountain.