Bernier
Credit: Bernier

Canada's fastest ski mountaineering racer sets big goals for November and race season ahead.

Even for the fastest woman on skis, the goal is daunting. For everyone else it sounds exhausting. Melanie Bernier, Canada's fastest ski mountaineering racer, is planning to climb 3,000 metres every day for the month of November.

The event, dubbed Reach for the Top (www.reachforthetop.myevent.com), is part fundraiser for the world class athlete and her favourite charities and part training regime for the season ahead. Ski mountaineering is competitive backcountry skiing. Racers compete to complete a course with multiple ups and downs as fast as they can. Last winter, Bernier became the first Canadian to podium on the sport's European dominated World Cup circuit and finished the season ranked in the top five in the world. Her goal for this season is multiple podium finishes including at the biennial world championships.

"November is the most important for training, but also the hardest month," she says.  "With the mixed weather, so-so skiing and short days it's always difficult to stay psyched. I'm hoping that Reach for the Top will help me keep motivated and focused."

Every day in November Bernier will log as much vertical as possible, either on skis or foot, depending on snow conditions, near her home in Revelstoke, BC. Sponsors and donators will go online to pledge a certain amount of money for every metre she climbs. She plans to sweat out 2,000 to 3,000 metres of vertical gain per day. 

The money raised will go to support Bernier's expenses. Although under consideration to become an Olympic sport, right now ski mountaineering is not and thus the athletes foot their own bill for everything from food and equipment to race fees and flights. It adds up. To support her dream of winning the world championships Bernier works three jobs, including running her own residential design business. She will continue working throughout November.

David Dornian, the chair for ski mountaineering racing in Canada, says no one works harder than Bernier. "Considering the sports huge popularity in Europe and obscurity in North America to get herself in a position to podium at a world cup is nothing short of miraculous," he says. "It's a testament to her focus, talent and love of the sport."

The challenge of juggling three jobs and exhausting exercise is not Bernier's concern about the hurdle, though. 

"Keeping it diverse and interesting may be the biggest challenge and I am also scared I'll feel very lonely running and skiing alone all the time," she says. "I think I will try to keep in mind all the amazing powder days ahead and how good the base fitness will feel when I'm racing."

Plus, on select days during the month - November 10, 21 and 30 -—Bernier will train with even more purpose — and wearing a moustache. On those days all money raised will go to the Movember Foundation, a prostate cancer charity. 

Reach for the Top wraps up on December 6th at the MEC Vert180, Bernier's first ski mountaineering race of the year at Calgary's Canada Olympic Park. During the 180-minute event Bernier will ski as much vertical as possible and donate all the pledges to the Revelstoke Ski Club. 

To find out more about Bernier, Reach for the Top and to pledge money visit www.reachforthetop.myevent.com, search for Reach for the Top on Facebook or #reachforthetop2015 #uphillchallenge.

Melanie Bernie is profiled further in the Winter 2014 issue of Explore, out later this month.

 

 

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