Words: Janelle Smiley, Photos: Julian Kenchenten
On March 17, ski mountaineer Janelle Smiley and her partner Mark left their hometown of Jackson, Wyoming to join the Red Bull Der Lange Weg – aka the world’s longest ski tour, traversing the European Alps from Knappenhof, Austria, to Nice, France, in 40 days.
We asked Janelle to share her steps to prepare for the longest ski tour ever:
1) December: Find out you’re invited to traverse the European Alps – pretend you don’t know that’s the same distance as Jackson, Wyoming to Jasper, Alberta.
2) Start dry land training by power-hiking up mountains, while remodelling your van (paying for an event like this requires a frugal lifestyle).
3) Tell your friends and family of your lofty plans. Look at their faces as they furrow their brows with disbelief and offer their honest thoughts like, “Glad it’s not me,” “Why would you want to do that?” “You…got…this?” “Well… if anyone can…then it would be…you?” Yes, thank you for the bout of confidence.
4) Recognize that at this this point in life, there are really ONLY two options in life: have a baby or traverse the alps (the latter seems way less scary and more doable).
5) Don’t look at a map, it will scare you.
6) Go slower than you think, always. Unless you sign up for a race – then just get competitive and try to win – check!
7) Have long days back to back to back in the mountains with friends who don’t drop their poles or get blisters. My friend Eric Carter recommended 3 days over 8,000ft in a row, then an easy day, or a day off, then repeat.
8) Go out for 9hrs, get 12,000ft of vert and crush 13 miles. Be proud of your accomplishment then realize that you still have 25 more miles to go to get an average distance day. *sigh*
9) Go on a Canadian hut trip 2 weeks before the start date. Skiing powder helps to restoke your passion for touring and hopefully, some Canadian grit rubs off on you – ’cause Canadians are burly.
10) Look at a map. Get nervous. Find a sunscreen sponsor.
11) Decide you like stormy weather, harsh conditions, and whiteouts, then find the lightest weight GORE-TEX top and bottom. Maybe it’s best to just get a onesie?
12) Stay healthy by eating a well balanced diet absent of wheat and a healthy dose of Lindt dark chocolate truffles (the little blue round ones).
13) Stay hydrated, then ease off when you find yourself running to the WC every 20min.
14) Strength train 2x a week with World Class Strength Coach Chris Butler (he lives in Jackson, so that makes that easy).
15) Prioritize rest (I’m not good at this) & get a full nights sleep (I’m good at this).
16) Realize that you are traveling through the mountains with 5 Europeans you have never toured with – question your judgement – then remember you like making new foreign friends and rest assured that your best friend (Mark) is also joining you on the traverse. Then start to wonder if this whole thing is staged to be a reality show in the mountains. Then decide you don’t care because you get to traverse the ALPS!!!
17) Find a super positive, easy going friend who will act as a caregiver, medic, mental trainer, cheerleader, and spiritual guru to drive your support van. (He also has to have 40 days to burn and it’s a plus if he doesn’t snore).
18) Oh, and it helps to have spent the last decade climbing big mountains, racing up peaks, and learning to ski ‘good’.
19) Lastly, I remind myself that I love this sport. All I need to do is just take it step by step and day by day as I soak in this incredible opportunity to experience the joy of pushing my body in such a beautiful landscape.
It’s go time!
Follow Janelle and Mark on the Der Lange Weg on Instagram @janelle.smiley & @smileysproject.
Follow the entire event and read more.