Swiss welcome addition of ski mountaineering as Olympic sport

A participant in the ski mountaineering individual race at the Lausanne 2020 Youth Olympic Games ISMF

Ski mountaineering will make its Olympic debut at the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan, a decision that bodes well for Switzerland, which has many of the world’s best athletes in this discipline.

This content was published on July 20, 2021 - 11:46

The Lausanne-based International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided unanimously on Tuesday to add ski mountaineering, which involves carrying lightweight skis up off-piste routes and then skiing down them, to the 15 Olympic winter sports. This list has not changed since snowboarding was introduced at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano.

In an effort to maintain interest, the IOC is now giving Olympic host cities the opportunity to offer new disciplines if they are both “spectacular” and “culturally relevant to the host country and beyond”, the IOC said in a statementExternal link. However, as an “additional sport” requested by the Italian organisers, there is no guarantee that it will remain an Olympic sport.

The ski mountaineering programme in Milan will consist of five new medal events: two men’s events (sprint/individual), two women’s events (sprint/individual) and one mixed-gender relay event. An athlete quota of 48 (24 men/24 women) will fall within the overall quota of 2,900 participants.

Those five ski mountaineering events had contributed to the success of the Winter Youth Olympic Games in the Swiss city of Lausanne 2020, the IOC said, explaining its decision.

Swiss medals?

Ski mountaineering is also a fast-growing winter sport among amateur/weekend practitioners and is particularly popular in Italy. “Europe is the continent where ski mountaineering has seen the greatest development, but over recent years more and more participants, at both professional and amateur level, have been identified all over the world,” the IOC said.

It also has the advantage of not requiring any construction or even a dedicated site, an important factor since the IOC decided to limit the costly investments that often deter host cities.

Since the early 2000s Swiss men and women have won dozens of medals in the various ski mountaineering events at the World Championships. Most recently Rémi Bonnet, Werner Marti and Victoria Kreuzer cleaned up at the World Championships in March.

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