Residents react to major step towards 2026 Olympic ski mountaineering in Italy


Local Summit County silver medalist Grace Staberg competes in the International Ski Mountaineering Federation U-20 Women’s World Championship vertical race in Andorra on Thursday.
Photo by Maurizio Torri

Ski mountaineering is about to officially become an Olympic sport.

The International Olympic Committee announced on Friday June 18 that the IOC Executive Board had sent a formal proposal to the committee to vote on whether to officially add sport to the 2026 Winter Olympics in Italy. The vote is scheduled to take place at the next IOC Session in Tokyo on July 20 and 21.

The decision of the IOC Executive Board coincides with the official proposal of the Organizing Committee for the 2026 Olympic Games to include sport.

Summit County Local Ram Mikulas, president of the American Ski Mountaineering Association, said the development is a big step towards Olympic inclusion for the sport. Mikulas added that he was confident the IOC would grant final approval at the July meeting.

“It appears that the IOC Executive Board is in favor and, given that, I expect the rest of the IOC’s voting members to follow suit,” he said.

The executive committee’s proposal consists of five new medal-winning ski mountaineering events for the 2026 Games. There would be men’s and women’s sprints and individual events as well as a mixed relay.

The five medal events are identical to the five medal events held at the 2020 Youth Olympic Winter Games in Lausanne, Switzerland. In its statement on Friday, the IOC said the success of ski mountaineering in Lausanne was one of the main reasons they were proposing it for Milan-Cortina.

Grace Staberg of Silverthorne represented the United States at the Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne and last year was the only American to compete on the World Cup circuit in Europe. Staberg, who would be 24 in time for the 2026 games, said the general consensus on the World Cup circuit this season is that it will only be a matter of time before the sport becomes Olympic.

“Even having the chance to compete for a chance on an Olympic team in a selection race would be a great honor,” said Staberg. “I really hope I get this opportunity at some point in my athletic career.”

The five medal events on offer, such as the 2020 Youth Winter Olympics, do not include the vertical discipline, which is one of the three main disciplines on the World Championships and World Cup circuit. the International Ski Mountaineering Federation.

The proposal provides for a quota of 24 men and 24 women capable of competing in all disciplines at the 2026 Olympics. The proposal also specifically states that the popularity and success of sport in Italy is one of the main reasons for inclusion. offered in the games of 2026 – a notion with which Mikulas subscribed.

“Italy is one of the strongest nations in sport,” said Mikulas. “It bodes well for them.”

The proposal added the growing popularity of amateur sport globally as another contributing factor.

Here in the United States, Mikulas said the ability of the United States to win places in the games will likely depend on the country’s performance at the world and continental championships.

“For example, for the Youth Olympic Games, we qualified by doing well at the World Championships (International Ski Mountaineering Federation) and, in our case, the North American Championships,” Mikulas said. “So thanks to the good performance of the United States, we were able to win four places for the Youth Olympic Games – two boys and two girls. And then we determined a selection process and worked with the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee to approve it. For 2026, most likely, it would be similar. “

Mikulas said that since Friday’s announcement, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee has contacted him, as well as the American Ski Mountaineering Association, to commit to a new level.

“Once the sport becomes an Olympic sport, it will allow us to gain more resources, assistance and communication with the (United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee), which helps us to grow as a national governing body, ”Mikulas said.

Mikulas said that with Olympic inclusion, further steps for the US Ski Mountaineering Association would include developing a formal anti-doping program and policies on harassment and abuse in safe sport, among other administrative and legal requirements. .

Local Breckenridge and US Ski Mountaineering Association head coach Joe Howdyshell said the 2026 Olympic sprint races would be a great discipline for in-person spectators for the games, while the much longer individual race would offer picturesque views of the race – and the Cortina region – to viewers. .

As for the United States’ progression in the sport, Howdyshell said the country can follow the trajectory of cross-country skiing by focusing on short-term success in the discipline of sprinting.

“You can work on your skills very well and be competitive in the sprints usually a little earlier than in the individual race,” said the coach. “For the United States, we have historically had some of our best results internationally in sprinting. “


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