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Race report: ‘Ultimate Mt. Challenge’ a leg-killer, lung-crusher in Vail

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Legs burning from fatigue, my face caked in an ice beard, I blasted between moguls en route to the bottom of Vail Mountain. It was four hours into a ski-mountaineering race, a marquee event at the Winter Mountain Games last week in Colorado.

Pushing limits on an uphill section during the Winter Games at Vail

“You guys are animals!” a skier shouted from a chairlift above. I felt a bit like a beast, though beaten down and now more a whimpering puppy than a lion.

It was day two of the Ultimate Mountain Challenge, and I was fighting to stay in control. The “SkiMo” race was the second stage of the three-event UMC, held annually at the Games (official name: The Winter Mountain Games presented by Eddie Bauer).

Holding it together going down in thick falling snow

The day before I’d skied 10K in a Nordic freestyle. Tomorrow was an uphill sprint on snow. But at the moment, bouncing downhill toward a finish line on the ski-mountaineering course, I was focused on the immediate challenge at hand.

Line of racers: Skins allow fast uphill motion on free-heel race skis

Like a triathlon based on a mountain, and spread out over three days, the UMC was an ultimate test for me and my gear. Read on for a break-down of each challenge as well as more gnarly images from the three-day event on the steep slopes in Vail.

Next page: Day One: Nordic Freestyle 10k. . .

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