The Silitch Family

Adventures in the Alps and Beyond

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Pierra Menta - First American Team-

Nina and Lyndsay set a goal to compete in the Pierra Menta - the famous four day French ski mountaineering race. Nina had had a few set backs in the past 3 weeks missing the World Champs due to flu and strep, then a car accident and a relapse of strep throat. Needless to say- she strapped her skis on after almost 3 weeks of being away. Sometimes a good break is all that is needed. The goal was to purely finish the race and we did more than that. They were the first American team to take place in this event. And we took 14th place out of 21 womens teams. This year there were more womans teams than ever and the level was high; they were competing against top teams from France, Italy Spain, Germany. In total there were about 165 teams men included.

The Areche/ Beaufort region is the heart of ski mountaineering. The children in this area start randonee skiing at age 10 so they have some distance and training behind them. It was clear from the course setters that they wanted to give a taste of what real ski mountaineerin is about. The courses were varied and changed a bit with the lack of snow in places. The arrival day it poured with rain but were blessed w/ 3 good sunny days and then the last day a bit of mixed weather.

  • The first 2 days of downhills skiing was pure surival skiing. Our first decent was bullet proof ice...Bode Miller would have let them run on this. It reminded me a bit if Sugarloaf/USA after a good rain and then a freeze. Lyndsay and I let them run as much as we could but then it was purely survival skiing getting down over roots and rocks and then icy couloirs with rutted out mogals. There were places on the decents we had to take off our skiis and literally run down a steep muddly slope w/ rocks and roots and trees. We called this the Rambo run. Lyndsay's ultra trail running kicked in and she launched by some teams like a gazelle. There was one section that went up a cable line and we must have done 85 kick turns. We got those down. Another section the snow was to hard to make a track so it was fend for yourself over an avalanche debris slope- It was pure mayhem -people forging there way in all directions trying not to slide down the icy slope. Another section again was pure ice. One had to gently skin, with abs engaged...tread lightly....On this section one could look to the left of right and people would loose traction and just slide right down the slope they just climbed. The last day we did well and made up time on the decents and the flats. We knew it would be over soon - and were looking forward to the finish. It was hot but we hung in there and moved up 4 places.

    We finished- our bodies a bit sore- blisters under our toes and on ankles but good none-the less. We remember why we do this. To push ourselves to a challenged. Enjoy meeting new people and also to be thankful for what our bodies can do.

    Often throughout the course people would cheer, Go Lyndsay, Go Nina. Go USA. It was nice to have the encouragement from the crowds. One man said to us, "oh you are from America; This isn't too hard for you?" We of course said no. Yes the sport is new in the US and we are happy to be helping it grow.

    Throughout the 4 days, I often thought of Tour de France riders- finishing their stages and then having to recover and take care of their bodies. this would be our schedule:

  • finish our race...

  • grab some food and drink

  • change clothes,

  • re fuel,

  • shower and stretch,

  • nap

  • get a massage (these were given to all racers each day!) and

  • then get the briefing on next days course,

  • eat some more,

  • prepare our equipment, (Skis, boots, food- water_

  • sleep

  • wake at 5am for 7am start.

Most days we were out racing between 4hr:30 and 5hr:30 min- The last day was much shorter -only 1:30 ( a welcome change) Total elevation gain over 4 days: (10000 meters or 32,800 feet)

The best was to have Michael and Birken at the finish w/ Birken's. I could not have done this with out the support of Michael- my ski tech and coach- My boys and Anna too! and the support of Mom- Dad and Bunge. Thank you!

Go Mommy Go! sign!

To Read a first hand account from Lyndsay - our feature writer-

Featured on LIVE TO SKI

For a very cool video on the Pierra Menta click on the following. This was aired on French TV. You will have a chance to practice your French.

For more about the event click below:

Next...The Patrouilles des Glaciers... the swiss ski mountaineering race Zermatt to Verbier April 18th....we will join up w/ Tara Jeffries from Cervinia, Italy.

The Pierra Menta- The most legendary alpine ski competition in the world

What is the Pierra Menta: read on..
(from www.

From 13th to 16th March 2008, more than 160 two-person teams will attend the 23rd edition of Pierra Menta, the most legendary alpine ski competition in the world. The wonder of this mythical event will strike once more…....
A legendary alpine ski competition
• The most famous: 23 years of existence• The longest: 10,000 meters total climbing over a four day competition• The largest participation: 160 two-skier teams• The friendliest: spectators by the thousands support the teams, including on the top of Grand Mont (2686m), amidst the mountains.• The fairest: equal treatment for all over the total run but separate premiums for men and women.• The most international: the whole of Europe’s mountain world will attend
With Whom?
Smiling women and men are the spirit of Pierra Menta. They are accomplished mountaineers as well as amateurs, running the show for outstanding performers without dough, dope or showing-off…Simple heroes: the best European champions in their field but also fully dedicated, unobtrusive and anonymous athletes, practising a sport unspoilt with scandal or fashion.
At Arêches-Beaufort, in the magnificent alpine site of Beaufortain, Savoie.Four days of ski routes around the famous Pierra Menta summit that gave its name to the competition.
From 13th to 16th March 2008, when the mountains are gradually turning to spring snow.
Alpine skiing is the competition version of mountain cross country skiing. A two-person team ski up without any mechanical assistance and race down as fast as they can. The winners are clearly the fastest. Uphill, the skis are equipped with so called “sealskins” that prevent sliding back. They are removed when rushing downhill. The participants, on their own during the competition, are expected to be familiar with high altitude mountain conditions and truly respectful of the natural environment.
During the four stages, the participants may have the opportunity to climb such summits as Mirantin (2460m), Grande Journée, Grand Mont, Mont Coin, Légette…Carrying skis and wearing crampons will occasionally prove necessary. Each skier shall have his or her ARVA – a radio safety device used for locating victims of snow avalanches –, a snow shovel and a sounding probe, just in case!
Self sufficiency: everyone carry their own supplies (drinks and food). Departure is at daybreak. The last participants reach the arrival line many hours after the winners. Great spirit: cow bells, songs, happy mood.
And what else?
Pierra Menta is also a fantastic mountain, the result of Gargantua’s anger. In a fit of rage, he shot this obelisk in the middle of Beaufortain’s alpine pasture land. This stone needle now stands pointing up, reaching 2714m.
Information and registration for the 23rd edition of Pierra MentaOfficial site: