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  • Ski Mountaineering Ascends Towards Olympic Recognition


    04/13/16

    (ATR) International Ski Mountaineering Federation officials are optimistic that their steady climb uphill towards full Olympic status culminates on a mountain at the Beijing 2022 Winter Games.

    Mass start at an individual World Cup race. (ISMF)
    Established in 2008, the ISMF was granted provisional recognition by the IOC in April 2014 and is striving for full recognition to be assessed at the 2017 IOC session in Lima, Peru.

    ISMF president Armando Mariotta tells Around the Rings he is scheduled to meet with IOC sport director Kit McConnell and director general Christophe De Kepper next week in Lausanne regarding steps for providing a showcase of ski mountaineering at the PyeongChang 2018 Games.

    Mariotta, 68, believes that a presence in Korea could be a pivotal step towards acceptance by Beijing organizers, the winter sport federations and the IOC for the 2022 program.

    “As you know from Agenda 2020, if the location of the Olympic Games is interested in having a new sport, they can appeal to the IOC,” Mariotta told ATR. “We have a good relationship with the China Mountaineering Association and the president said he can try to push the Chinese Olympic Committee to ask for your new sport.

    “We are working towards this dream,” said Mariotta, a longtime ski instructor of the Italian Mountaineering Club and one of the founders of the first ski mountaineering federation, CISAC, in 1991.

    “So far, nobody has told us no, but nobody has told us yes. It is the realistic situation at the moment,” said the Italian ISMF president.

    A female Skimo racer from Italy in action. (ISMF)
    Often referred to as “Skimo,” the adventure sport features skiers climbing and descending breathtaking mountain peaks, while competing across three race disciplines: vertical, individual and sprint. At times, racers are required to carry their skis on their backs. Mass starts add to the thrills and drama.

    This past winter, ISMF staged five World Cup events in spectacular alpine environments across Italy, Switzerland and Andorra. However, Mariotta stresses that competitions can still be carried out in more modest mountain settings with ascents of between 600-700 meters required for vertical and individual races.

    “Skimo” has gained added exposure in recent years as ISMF has secured Infront Sports and Media to handle TV production, rights distribution and sponsorship.

    “At least 10 national broadcasters, including Eurosport have asked for our highlights packages,” Mariotta said.

    Ski Mountaineering has also been included on the program of the CISM World Military Games in Annecy, France, as will again be the case next winter in Sochi.

    Also on next season’s calendar, the ski mountaineering federation will stage its bi-annual showcase event in late February – the ISMF World Championships in Alpago Transcavallo, Italy.

    Racers tackle a tough ascent at a World Cup race. (ISMF)
    Currently, the federation is comprised of 31 member nations, six more than the required 25 necessary to attain Winter Olympic status.

    The ISMF president said he hopes five to six additional national federations can be established in the coming years, with focus in central and eastern Asia as well as New Zealand.

    Mariotta also advises that the ISMF has been WADA code compliant since 2010 fostering transparency and independence. ISMF states that 26-percent of its annual budget has gone towards anti-doping measures.

    “Skimo is among the cleanest sports and has a long anti-doping tradition,” Mariotta said of the mountain endurance sport.

    Mariotta and fellow ISMF representatives attended Asian series races last month in South Korea, cooperating with local organizers. Discussed with PyeongChang 2018 officials was ISMF's master plan for the proposed Skimo showcase at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

    More is expected to be determined when Mariotta meets with the IOC next Thursday in Lausanne.

    “You cannot lose your dreams, so we absolutely have to continue,” Mariotta said.

    Written by Brian Pinelli

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