By Jack Reaney STAFF WRITER
Every gram will count as ski mountaineers skin, boot pack and scramble up Lone Mountain terrain during the eighth annual Shedhorn Skimo Race.
Open to the public but featuring some Olympic hopefuls, COSMIC Series—Colorado Ski Mountaineering Cup—and Big Sky Cup will host three events in Big Sky on March 3-4 for the Shedhorn Skimo. Friday afternoon’s sprint race will bring a spectator-friendly taste of the new Olympic ski mountaineering event. On Saturday morning, the Shedhorn race is one of few sanctioned USA National Cup events, and the Pronghorn event will trim some mileage in an unforgiving introduction to ski mountaineering. The Shedling race offers a small course for kids under 14 years old. All events and race routes are dependent on conditions.
COSMIC event coordinator Joe Risi from Carbondale, Colo. spoke with Explore Big Sky about the upcoming event.
“We have people from Vermont, New Hampshire, Washington, Colorado, Utah. There’s a lot of patrollers from both Big Sky and YC that are racing too,” Risi said. “There’s a lot of under 23-year-old racers… they’re in that prime age group for the 2026 Olympics, they’re hopefully up there with some of the best in the world.”
Risi said the Shedhorn Skimo is “higher end for sure” in terms of North American ski mountaineering racing.
The sprint race begins on Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. on the Ambush trail at Big Sky Resort. The “super short, super spectator friendly” race lasts just four minutes as it combines skinning, booting and skiing in view of the Big Sky base area. A similar sprint race format will be seen in the 2026 Olympics as the first ever ski mountaineering event.
Other high caliber athletes will be competing in the individual events, which begin at 8 a.m. on Saturday.
Both Shedhorn and Pronghorn courses descend the Big Couloir, with starting intervals spaced 60 seconds apart.
“It’s definitely the only time you’ll race someone down the Big Couloir,” Risi said.
The Shedhorn course is more than 13 miles long with 7,500 feet of elevation gain. It runs from the Big Sky Resort base area to the top of Lone Mountain—Risi said the fastest racers will “run” to the summit in roughly 55 minutes—before racing down the Big Couloir, climbing the A-Z ridge, descending the headwaters to Moonlight Basin, skinning and hiking back up the A-Z ridge, descending the A-Z chutes, skinning to the Shedhorn Grill, up the Dakota Ridge, up to Lone Peak again and down Liberty Bowl to the base.
Generally more amateur athletes will enter the Pronghorn event—now in its seventh year—stretching more than seven miles long with 4,600 feet of elevation gain, Risi said. The pronghorn course cuts off the Moonlight Basin and Dakota territory; when racers first climb the A-Z ridge, they descend the Headwaters down to the base. Risi said it’s an awesome morning to say the least, open to anyone with touring gear. He also said Big Sky’s course is relatively challenging as an introduction to skimo racing.
“Some [introduction-level events] are more resort-based,” he added. “This one you’ll actually be climbing up a ridgeline to Lone Peak.”
About 10-20% of registrants are first-time racers, Risi said.
In a follow-up email to EBS, Risi wrote, “The original concept for the Shedhorn Ski Mountaineering race was and still is fueled by monumental efforts from Big Sky Ski Patrol; specifically patrol veterans [and] race founders Noah Ronczkowski, summit director, Rachael Efta, and Casey Heerdt.”
The Shedling event costs $5 to register and begins at 8:05 on Saturday morning. Racers will climb 1 mile in distance and 720 vertical feet.
Risi shared spots for spectators to get the best view of Shedhorn racers. Anyone with binoculars will be able to see racers climbing to the peak around 8:30 a.m., and although the fastest racers will summit by first chair, most can be seen descending the Big Couloir from the cue ball atop Powder Seeker.
“Shedhorn Grill is a great spot to cheer people on, and Dakota Bowl ridge gate—top racers come through there around 11,” he said.
By 11:15 a.m., some of North America’s fastest skimo racers will reach the finish at the Base Area. An awards ceremony will be held at 5 p.m. in the Mountain Village Plaza.