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ISMF SKI MOUNTAINEERING WORLD CUP: THE LATEST NEWS
The Madonna di Campiglio finals were an opportunity to take stock of the season, also in view of the possible inclusion of SKIMO in the Winter Olympic Games in Milan Cortina 2026
Axelle Mollaret raises the crystal trophy to the sky, on a real podium - not on zoom - before our eyes, overall winner in the senior category. Spectators comment on the races and talk to other onlookers, albeit through surgical masks, sparkling eyes revealing emotions. An unexpected and improvised chorus formed by the voices of the national team technicians, sponsors, athletes and photographers, sings the Italian national anthem, giving everyone goosebumps. Thrilling live performances, the adrenaline of rushing about on mountain ridges to the edge of the sky and sliding back down on technical descents traced on the slopes of Monte Spinale. In the senior overall, Robert Antonioli from Valtellina wins his fourth crystal trophy. More than a World Cup, and Italian Cup, judging by the ranking of the men's individual race that was decided during the final stages of the race, in Madonna di Campiglio: blue is the dominant colour, with thirty-five year old Matteo Eydallin, from Sauze d'Oulx, who closes the marathon in front of Davide Magnini and Nadir Maguet, the “Magician” of the La Sportiva family.
The only exception is the unstoppable Frenchman William Bon Mardion, who finishes fifth in the individual race. A Top player in the La Sportiva team for about ten years, William Bon Maridon is a member of the French national ski mountaineering team, a team that the company from Val di Fiemme (Trentino, Dolomites) has been sponsoring for the last three seasons. An athlete who has written - and continues to write, with tenacity, talent and great passion - the history of the Cup, since he started racing on the circuit in 2007. With a wild spirit and unmistakable yellow helmet, William is a moving sculpture that stands out among the slim bodies of his rivals. “Over the years I have seen the Cup change. By dint of introducing new rules, the risk is that we run in circuits that are easier and safer, of course, but which have little to do with the authentic spirit of ski mountaineering. The essence of the discipline is the individual race, which however counts less and less for the general classification. More and more space is given to the sprint test, which is a short race, devised inside a sort of "stadium", far from the high mountains, "says the somewhat skeptical French champion. “The requirements imposed by the Federation for participation in the Olympic Games arise from media needs, to give visibility to the discipline and make filming the steps more“ accessible ”. All in the name of money. They want us to go down to the slopes, passing through gates, like those of downhill skiing, but in this way we make ourselves look ridiculous: the equipment we have is not suitable for this type of activity. For me, ski mountaineering means inversions in a steep gully, learning to interpret the weather, the terrain and the snow conditions, tackling technical sections both uphill and downhill. If the Olympic Games lack these characteristics, it will simply be a different type of sport, certainly not mine ”.
In the setting of the Brenta Dolomites, the final act of the international circuit was studied in detail to ensure maximum safety at the event, after the forced cancellation of last year, due to the pandemic still in progress. During each race a sort of “bubble” was created, with masks worn up to a minute before the start by the athletes with well separated areas with sanitizing gel at each entrance. To access the event it was mandatory to be negative to the molecular swab, to fill out declarations and self-certifications, and to have accreditation (the number of participants was limited). Upon arrival it was impossible not to be impressed by the measures imposed during the race perimeter. The best part is that everyone accepted it, because they realized it was imperative to protect health and ensure that the World Cup took place. However, the exceptional circumstances created considerable tension: for an athlete a positive swab meant the end of the season. Sébastien Guichardaz, for example, a young talent from the La Sportiva team, resulted positive before the finals and therefore had to fight to defend the U23 positions from home, still managing to maintain second place in the individual race standings. Every moment was hard earned, and not just by the athletes.
“We all tried to make a great effort to complete the season. Nobody would have bet on the success of the Cup. Instead, this period taught us a lot in terms of organization: we have become much more efficient ”, said Roberto Cavallo, ISMF General Manager. "We have had official confirmation that the organizing committee of Milan Cortina 2026 has sent a formal request to the International Olympic Committee for the inclusion of ski mountaineering within the winter Olympic disciplines, a great step forward. We are therefore being examined by the IOC. On the other hand, even if we do not have to pass the test, there is the desire to expand on the international scene: no longer just a European Cup but a true World Cup. There are already new nations emerging, such as Sweden, Belgium, Germany, and other promising ones, such as the United States - where two stages of the Cup will take place in 2022-2023 - and then Asia, which is rapidly development and South America, where ski mountaineering competitions are beginning too. At the same time we are working on an important development project in terms of Marketing and Communication, and reviewing the competition formats, to adapt to the Olympic ones. Ski mountaineering is becoming more and more professional, we are studying important partnerships with media partners and companies. For the sake of visibility, it is unthinkable to run a race on ridges at 3,500 meters above sea level, in places very far from the resorts. I believe that the agreement we have reached with La Grande Course will benefit athletes who want to express themselves even over long distances. For young people, however, we are thinking of creating a European Cup reserved only for them and also open to ski clubs too ”.
If this sport had to restart somewhere after the Corona Virus, the Ski Mountaineering World Cup was a demonstration of great professionalism and determination. The International Ski Mountaineering Federation (ISMF), the organizers, the resorts, and the professionals, did everything they could to ensure the success of the event: everyone believed in it to the end, and did well. The athletes needed the Cup, and a return to apparent normality: without a goal it is difficult to keep motivation high to carry out intense training during a season with almost no competitions. The absence of the public and the traditional closing party created a calmer, almost surreal atmosphere. The cheering and mundane moments certainly have been missed a little by everyone, but the unique moment – a forced pause- that we are experiencing, in some way allowed us to reflect on the discipline, also in view of a possible participation of sport in the Olympic Games Milan Cortina Winter 2026.
"Mountain channels on foot, challenging descents, mountain ridges: this is the essence of ski mountaineering, a specificity that races conceived on track circuits, near the resorts, do not possess. It is we athletes who take part and I believe our requests should be listened to more. There are formats, such as sprint and vertical, manageable on television and that work well for the Olympics. For the individual, however, the values, culture and tradition of ski mountaineering must be respected: the track must be technical, difficult, with inversions. This is a sport, but it is above all a way of life ”, Nadir Mago Maguet is an athlete with clear ideas. "You have to decide how to get to the Olympics, otherwise the risk is that, as happened with climbing, there are very strong, pure athletes, like Stefano Ghisolfi, who fail to qualify. Let us remember that the race is the tip of the iceberg but what matters is what is behind it, that is, the life of the athlete, who must find pleasure and serenity in what he does. If I have to do some training that I don't like, after a while the magic of this sport fades. I believe in the values of ski mountaineering and I have my dreams, I can adapt but up to a certain point, I can't do something that I don't agree with ". When Nadir was about sixteen, about ten years ago, Massimo Dondio alias Macia approached him after a-race of the Tour du Rutor and asked him to join the La Sportiva team, demonstrating the company's attention to young talents. “The relationship with La Sportiva is healthy one, based on friendship. During work assignments, you get to talk directly to the people who work there, it is not just based an email communication as happens for other brands. It is very important to me: you feel considered and valued. When I was a kid and I went to competitions, I knew Macia would be there, he was someone who made me feel confident. I could confide in him: he knows very well what I think about ski mountaineering and the type of athlete I am. Few people outside my family and closest friends know me like him. During the races, when you have problems you know that you can sit at a table and have a chat with him ”
You start at full speed, then you accelerate and get to the maximum. You run without ever sparing yourself. This is the spirit of a sport that is much more than a sport. It is pure love for the mountains, beyond all borders. A tradition of unwritten ethical values, an intimate dialogue with the mountains and a wonderful struggle with it. A passion that, in the opinion of the athletes who share ideas, is difficult to limit within the boundaries of media needs.
The sun rises between the snow-capped peaks, to warm the atmosphere for the latest challenge among the top runners on the international stage. Giulia Murada’s eyes sparkle, thin and lively, transmitting the joy for the results achieved, while skiing with the other mask, the beautiful one, with mirrored photochromic lenses. A great season, which ended with the victory of the three races of the Madonna di Campiglio stage and an eighth overall position. “We athletes are willing to adapt but things have to change. When I heard about the possibility of participating in the Olympic Games a few years ago, I was obviously very happy. But seeing in which direction we are going, and after the experience of the Youth Olympics in Lausanne that took place last year, I have some second thoughts: it was a circuit race with some descents through gates, unwatchable. The sport is being distorted with the intention of giving it media visibility. In the name of what? The risk, on the contrary, is to show the public something very different from true ski mountaineering. A sort of cross-country with skins a "plagiary" of other disciplines that does not enhance the unique features of this sport, such as technical descents and inversions. It is important to show real ski mountaineering, the tough one, at high altitude. If we are to "sell ourselves" and change the discipline so much, I am not sure it is worth going to the Olympic Games. Perhaps a compromise is to invest in other circuits, we could still achieve great numbers while maintaining the essence of sport, as happened for cycling: between a Tour de France and a World Championship I believe that a professional prefers to win a Tour ".
The reflections are shared by Mara Martini, ski instructor, the snow tiger with big sky-blue eyes, who is also part of the La Sportiva dream team, like Giulia Murada. A genuine and practical skier, fifth overall in the race, seeing her dart downhill, while dictating the games in her favourite playground, it is hard to believe that she had to overcome the long vertical stretch carrying the skis on her shoulders, the spectacular skin changes made with athletic gestures in a few moments and the effort of the climb. “True ski mountaineering means climbing high ridges and mountain channels, going off-piste. Running the race near the resorts, I guess for organizational and visibility reasons, does not correspond to my idea of this sport. We are already doing vertical and sprint tests on the track, at least during the individual races there must also be a bit of mountaineering beyond skiing. Otherwise it should no longer be called ski mountaineering. We athletes are willing to adapt, but up to a certain point. If to get to the Olympics we have to run at low altitude and on the track, it is simply not the discipline we have chosen. Thus ski mountaineering loses its essence, the mountain ".
There is a new generation of young people who have never raced - they could start - La Grande Course - the circuit of the most beautiful and spectacular races in world ski mountaineering, which features extremely high-level events such as the legendary Pierra. Mint - trains only for circuit performance on the track, without engaging in technical descents and climbs. On the other hand, La Sportiva's commitment and spirit is to encourage the growth and training of enthusiastic kids with a great passion for the mountains. La Sportiva accompanies athletes on their journey, it does not only support them when they are at the top of their careers. If the ambition of the ISMF is for ski mountaineering to become an Olympic sport during the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games, perhaps agreements can be made in order to achieve practical ends, but marketing the principles of ski mountaineering is not a farsighted idea for the future of the next generations of skialpers.