To new heights with the Swedish national team in ski mountaineering

Hector Haines

Hector Haines is British and the head coach of the Swedish national team in ski mountaineering, also known as skimo, and he lives in Åre. For Hector, skimo is not just a sport, it’s also a lifestyle and a natural continuation of his own successful elite career in orienteering and skyrunning. Being the head coach has also awakened Hector’s own dormant competitive motivation and pursuit of success, but now it’s in the role of a leader that he wants to succeed.

Ski Mountaineering: Fast and Light

Ski mountaineering, or skimo as it is also called, is essentially ski touring at racing speed. When the sport is at its best, it’s a magical combination of speed, endurance, and skill in moving through mountain terrain. There are well-known, classic races such as Patrouille De Glaciers, Mezzalama, and Pierra Menta that all represent the origins of ski mountaineering in the heart of the Alps. But skimo is changing, and on the international scene, it’s now the shorter races that are the focus. For example, at the 2026 Olympics in Cortina, only sprint and mixed relays will be represented.

Competitions: A Wide Variety

Every year, several major competitions and a World Cup are held, along with a World Championship that takes place biennially. A typical competition week includes the disciplines of vertical, individual (long), sprint, and mixed relay. Most competitions take place in ski resorts and often utilise groomed slopes and artificial tracks. In Sweden, we have the Swedish Cup which is a mix of different disciplines. On February 10, 2024, we will have a Swedish championship in sprint for the first time in Hammarbybacken, Stockholm.

Equipment: Weight is Everything

To succeed at the highest level in ski mountaineering, every gram matters. For example, the athletes’ carbon fibre boots weigh only 500 grams. There are weight limits in the competition regulations. For instance, skis and bindings together must not weigh less than 780 grams (for a pair of 160 cm long and 60 mm wide skis). The equipment is often weighed by the international federation and spot checks are done after the races. Violations lead to disqualification. Certain equipment is mandatory, but items like crampons and harnesses are rarely needed nowadays. All this, along with the tight-fitting suits, leads to a magical feeling of freedom and speed, which allows athletes to squeeze out that last bit required to cross the finish line first.

The Swedish National Team: Hard Training and Good Team Spirit

The Swedish national team in ski mountaineering consists of individuals from various sports around Sweden, including orienteering, cross-country skiing, biathlon, and cycling. They all share a passion for pushing boundaries and a desire to develop. Tove Alexandersson, an international superstar in both orienteering and ski orienteering, is back on the national team and competing in the World Cup. Ski mountaineering is organised under the Swedish Climbing Federation, which is the only federation in Sweden that has Olympic ambitions for both the Summer and Winter Games. Despite a limited budget, everyone works hard, and we have a packed competition calendar as well as regularly gathering for training camps ahead of the major competitions. Skimo is becoming increasingly popular in Sweden and attracts new enthusiasts, especially young people eager to try out the sport. The youth team under 23 years is also steadily growing. However, compared to other nations, we are somewhat behind both in level and breadth. For example, the Norwegians are currently better organised and more successful.

2026 Olympics in Cortina: A Swedish Medal is Not Impossible

To qualify for the 2026 Olympics in Cortina, Sweden must perform well in the 2024/2025 season, particularly in the World Cup’s sprint and mixed relays. Additionally, our athletes must achieve high enough rankings to meet the qualification criteria. We believe this is achievable, but everything must go according to plan. We also plan to expand the range of national competitions and organize high-quality Swedish championships. There are even thoughts of hosting a World Cup race in Sweden. The question is probably no longer if Sweden will participate in ski mountaineering at the Winter Olympics 2026, but how close we can get to the medals. The odds are good, given the talent and determination of the athletes. If Tove Alexandersson is in top form, an individual success could be possible. It will be exciting to see if we can succeed and be competitive in the coming years.

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