In July, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) unanimously approved the addition of ski mountaineering (skimo) to the Winter Olympics in Milano Cortina 2026. With the acceptance, alongside other outdoor sports recently added like skateboarding, rock climbing and surfing.
SGB Executive contacted the base with a few industry players in the category to see what this could mean for the burgeoning backcountry market, an industry already growing before the COVID-19 pandemic that flourished even stronger since.
The addition will include multiple race formats of individual, vertical, team, sprint and relay races. The 2026 Olympic program will feature five new medal events — two men’s events (sprint / individual), two women’s events (sprint / individual) and one mixed relay event — with an athlete quota of 48 (24 men / 24 women). . Each event will be timed, with skiers ascending and descending difficult mountainous terrain using light ski touring equipment and techniques.
It is the exposure of the sport, its athletes and their equipment that should further strengthen the backcountry segment.
“We were thrilled to hear about it,” said Drew Saunders, national director, Oberalp Group, whose brands include hiking equipment maker Dynafit. “There has been progress in this direction for quite some time, including a Skimo youth division which debuted in 2020, but this is the real deal that should help the sport continue to develop and become more running. We’ve already seen participation trends increase, but that should help even more.
As a case study, Saunders highlighted the Olympic inclusion of mountain biking in 1996 and what he did for the sport. He expects similar growth to occur in the rock climbing and surfing categories after their debut at this year’s Tokyo Games. “Mountain biking was relatively infrequent in the ’80s and’ 90s, and now it’s booming. Everyone has one or two in their garage, ”he said. “The Olympics helped that. We’ll probably see the same happen in rock climbing and surfing, and that will likely boost the backcountry category in the same way. It is an integration of sport that puts it in front of a larger pool of users.
For Dynafit, this is good news. The Skimo, or racing industry, has long been part of its DNA, Saunders said, and the company is there and will continue to be committed to it. Its range of SKUs reflects this. For boots, it already offers a high-end line for competitive athletes in its all-carbon Pintech DNA boots at $ 2,700, a lower-level racing Skimo boot called DNA that sells for $ 1,000 and a Skimo boot. recreation in its Mezzalama series priced at $ 800. . With the same line of skis, it is likely to increase its offering in the racing category with the Olympic inclusion of the sport, Saunders said.
“In addition to exposing the sport to more people and developing the recreational side, we expect the racing part of the market to continue to grow as well,” he said, adding that the huge growth in youth racing Skimo at the national level will probably increase the category. He highlighted Dynafit-sponsored athlete Grace Staberg of Summit County, Colo., Who competed in last year’s Youth Olympics, and who may well be part of the 2026 U.S. team. to compete in Cortina. “It helps nurture the next generation, which is what you need to grow any sport.”
Skin companies are also excited about the Olympic news, as well as the growing participation of young people in the category.
“The Olympics will shine the spotlight on this sport and attract more young people,” said Arthur Guinand, marketing director of Pomoca, a climbing skin company. “And we have until 2026 to make sure the structure and message is well built behind his debut to point people in the right direction and make the sport more accessible. It will also push competition within brands to win the first Olympic gold medal in the category. “
Blizzard / Tecnica is another brand ready to capitalize on this increased exposure. “The backcountry hiking market is booming. This is partly linked to COVID, but it has been growing rapidly for several years, ”said Jed Duke, director of product marketing. “Tourism has moved out of the niche market and turned to more traditional winter outdoor activities, and Skimo’s inclusion in the 2026 Olympics is further proof of that. The Olympic exhibit is expected to make the tour even more common in the winter outdoor market.
He added that this also creates additional liability. “With this will come a need to educate the public on the subcategories that exist in the general backcountry market. This will be an opportunity for brands, retailers and the media to share their expertise to help more consumers discover the practice that best fits their abilities and lifestyle, not to mention continuing to educate about safety. and the risks involved.
With the Olympics yet another catalyst for the category, the industry is hanging on for racing.
“We think this is positive news to help grow the sport in the United States and deliver Olympic dreams to our athletes,” said Ram Mikulas, President of the US Ski Mountaineering Association. “The Youth Olympic Games were Skimo’s release to the world, and the global growth of the sport was a key element in his approval to be added to the Olympic Games. As the ski touring and ski touring market in the United States grows rapidly, the additional exposure of Skimo’s Olympic status is expected to amplify this growth.
Photos courtesy of Dynafit