Ski mountaineers are a tough breed. They choose to slog up expert runs using skins rather than clocking the number of runs they can amass via a lift. The best ski mountaineers in the country will be heading to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in late March for this year's national championships.

Burgeoning ski mountaineering races have been popping up across the country, many taking place on expert resort slopes and unifying a points system under the United States Ski Mountaineering Association. A Le Mans-type start sends the pack of racers running 50 feet to their skis to begin skinning up the mountain, then amassing over 5,000 vertical feet between a series of climbs and descents.

The U.S. Ski Mountaineering National Championships at Jackson Hole Mar. 21 adds even more climbing, topping out with over 6,000 vertical feet. The route includes a climb up Corbet's Couloir, the last few feet on a ladder over the cornice.

Those not quite ready for a ski mountaineering race can sample a taste of ski touring through Jackson Hole Mountain Resort's guided backcountry skiing program. The guides lead half- or full-day trips adjacent to the resort and also at Teton Pass. Call 800-450-0477 for more information.

Those looking to gain heavy-duty ski mountaineering skills should hook up with Jackson Hole Mountain Guides. They teach ski mountaineering seminars and guide multi-day trips in the Tetons, several running in April and May. Call 800-239-7642 for information on their trips.