Alpine touring contest is a Canadian first 

Randonnee Rally part of Big Mountain Experience weekend

The backcountry is a tranquil place, and ski touring is typically viewed as a relaxing pastime. Skin a little, ski a little powder, and enjoy some time away from the hustle and bustle of the ski hill.

And then there’s the Life-Link/Dynafit Randonnee Rally. The clock is ticking, and some hustling and bustling is required if you want to be competitive – the last thing you want to do is relax.

The Randonnee Rally, which is being held for the first time in Canada on Jan. 11 as part of the Big Mountain Experience weekend, is essentially a ski touring race that tests endurance up, down and around a high alpine course that includes glaciers, bowls and other features.

"Whistler-Blackcomb believes this event is a perfect fit and partnership. It draws on the mountain’s strengths and highlights its unique characteristics – glaciers, alpine bowls, and North America’s greatest terrain and vertical," said Christopher Nicolson, manager of communications for Whistler-Blackcomb.

There will be Rally courses for both amateur and professional-level skiers.

Both courses are on Whistler Mountain, and begin at the Roundhouse.

According to event manager Christie Watts of Life-Link, the Randonnee Rally Race Series is in its third year, starting with a single event at Jackson Hole. Since that first event, the number of participants has grown to over 100 people.

Although this is the first time the event has been in Canada, she said a group of about 25 Canadians from the Lower Mainland area competed in the Seattle, Washington, events last season.

While many of the skiers are racing, the majority of participants are typically backcountry enthusiasts who view the Rally as a fun event.

"The rec people are super-mellow who view this as a gathering of backcountry people. As a whole, skiers tour with their friends, they have their own routes, their own stashes. This is a good way to get together with other members of their community, and enjoy a day of skiing. It’s a fun event," said Watts.

"The competitive skiers are actually pretty mellow too, but they can move pretty fast when they want to.

"It’s actually an up and coming sport. The Olympic committee will be in Whistler checking it out, and is looking into adding the sport to the Olympics in the future. It was actually in the first few Winter Olympics, but it got dropped for whatever reason. It’s really popular in Europe still, and it’s a pretty exciting race with all the climbing and skiing."

Life-Link held the first event in 2000, and hopes to put the event in a strong enough position to stand on its own as a regular tour.

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