Meet the Skimo Racer - Luke Nelson

Birthplace:  Idaho Falls, Idaho

Current hometown and mountain range:  Pocatello, Idaho- The Portneuf Range, The Tetons, The Wasatch.

If you were not born in the mountains, what drew you to them or enabled you to move to there:  I was born near the mountains and have spent pretty much all of my life in the mountains. My family spent a lot of time camping, hiking and climbing growing up. I have continued those pursuits into my adult life.

Age when you started skiing: 26, but I snowboarded for 15 years prior to that.

Number of years you have been skiing:  6

How long have you been skimo racing: This will be my sixth season of skimo racing.

How did you get into skimo racing:  I mostly got into skimo because I was hanging around the wrong people. It actually surfaced after a long backcountry day; I had spent the day breaking trail for a couple of other friends, and at the end of the day one of them mentioned that I should go to this race in Jackson to see how I compared to the other “mutants” out there.

Was there a moment of realization that helped you step it up to the next level of competition:  It was more of a process then a moment, but the biggest leap came when I got true race worthy set-up. That’s when I went from mid-pack to front pack racing.

What is your favorite thing about skimo racing:  The challenge of the entire sport is what I love. You can’t just be a great downhill skier or an aerobic monster. It takes a combination of fitness, skill and technique to make a solid skimo racer. Then you add in a wide variety of conditions and terrain and things get spicy!

What is your favorite skimo race:  Whichever race I am doing next! The races are so varied that I can’t say I have one absolute favorite. The Wasatch Powderkeg is the race I have done the most, so I guess it could be one, either the ‘keg or The US Champs Race in JH.

What is your most memorable skimo moment:  Hugging my two little girls and wife after winning the US Championships last year. I don’t remember a ton about the race itself, but I very vividly remember that hug at the finish.

What do you do to keep in shape for skimo racing in the off-season:  I run trail and mountain ultra-marathons to stay in shape in the other seasons of the year. I don’t really have an off season.

What is your favorite non-skimo sport of hobby:  Mountain Running

Skimo race wins:

2012-

  • US National Championships-1st
  • Grand Targhee Skimo Classic-2nd
  • North American Championships-2nd
  • Wasatch Powderkeg-2nd

2011-

  • US National Championships 3rd
  • Grand Targhee Skimo Classic 3rd
  • World Championships Team Race 19th
  • Worlds Individual 32nd
  • Wasatch Powderkeg 1st.

Skimo race you have not done that you would really like to do:  Pierra Menta is a race that I would really love to do in the next couple of years.

Preference of skimo race format (technical vs. non-technical; in-bounds vs. backcountry; etc):  Technical Backcountry races are by far what I prefer, the rowdier the better!

Preferred skimo gear (skis, bindings, skins, boots, pack, etc.):  I am very lucky to be sponsored by La Sportiva, whose gear I would be using even if I wasn’t sponsored by them. For racing I use the Stratos boot, the RSR ski and Binding, the Race skins, and the Stratos race suit. I have been working really closely with Ultraspire to develop a new Skimo race pack, it is still in testing right now, but it will be the pack I race with this year.

Favorite piece of skimo gear:  The La Sportiva Stratos boot is probably my favorite. It is crazy light, hikes very well, and skis like a DH race boot.

Best skimo training tip:  Train hard to race easy!

Best advice for beginner skimo racers:  I think the best thing for a beginner skimo racer to do is go out and train with someone who has been racing for a few years. There is a lot of subtle technique that goes into this sport, everything from skinning, kick turns, transitions, and so much more. If you hang out with someone who has been exposed to this stuff you will get better and faster. Also race as much as you can, it will make you sharp faster.

Skimo race nutrition preference:  Most Skimo races are short enough that I don’t need too much food or fuel during the race. I always use First Endurance Products when I train and race, both for running and skimo. During a race I will use a slurry of EFS drink mix combined with EFS Liquid Shot, in a a 10 oz bottle. This very concentrated mix serves as jet fuel during hard efforts.

Favorite post race beverage:  I always finish a race off with a big bottle of First Endurance Ultragen Recovery drink.

Personal website/blog:  www.challengeofbalance.blogspot.com