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 [R191R, 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.