Last Skier Standing is a ski touring endurance event hosted by White Mountain Ski Company, formerly known as Ski The Whites. Each participant must complete one lap up and down the mountain and be back at the startline within the hour to begin the next lap.
With each lap having 1 hour to be completed before the next must be started, any breaks to eat, sleep, or change gear must be earned by completing a faster lap and utilizing the remaining time in the hour.
Hilary and I sat down to discuss her 2023 performance as well as the approaching 2024 event which she will be competing in.
In the past, the competition was held only 5 minutes from my house in Jackson, NH so it was easy to volunteer for the long weekend and pop home to get some rest and food. When the race moved to Black Mountain of Maine I was going to be away for the whole weekend at the event I figured I may as well participate and ski.
During the summer I did plenty of hiking and trail running which allowed me to get a lot of vert in. Having a PT background always helps because going into the season I do ski specific strength training.
As far as actual skiing, about 4 weeks before the event I began to try and get 10,000 feet of vert in skiing per week. I also tried to find a trail that was similar to the course ~1000 feet and 1 mile. There was a trail at Wildcat Mountain where the bottom half was close and I went a handful of times to ski 4+ continuous laps at a comfortable pace to get in a rhythm.
Last Skier Standing isn’t just difficult because of the fitness challenge, many people struggle with managing gear and remaining comfortable; endless hours in ski boots can take a toll on your feet. For general advice I talked to my friend and 2022 LSS Winner, Brody Leven who gave me some good insights. He suggested taking my feet out of my boots on each lap as well as bringing boot dryers and extra boot liners.
I ate and drank between laps. I had packed lots of candy, PB&J, cheese sandwiches, and lots of electrolyte drinks. The volunteers were cooking lots of real food like burgers, hot dogs, and soups which was great to be able to actually eat and not survive off of energy chews, goos, and bars.
By the time the evening rolled around I had a few laps where various things bothered me like my achilles and my glute. It was likely from the fact that the season had a low snowpack so I hadn't had a lot of long days touring. Things got hard when the first sunset came but I knew a friend was coming to crew for me Saturday morning (the race began Friday morning) so I was going to be sure to make it until then. I didn't feel like I was drinking enough but luckily I had someone heat up some electrolyte drink for me each lap.
I didn't know at the time it was caffeinated and it really provided me with a good boost that helped me make it through the night. When the sun rose, I got a second wave seeing Torey arrive to help me and I didn't want to stop and waste the day sleeping it away so I convinced myself to keep going as long as I could. After the 24 hour mark it seemed that the first 5 min of each lap were really hard but then I would settle in and realize I could keep going. When it got down to the last three women that I decided my end goal would be the last woman standing.
I thought I would get a little bored and the time would go by slowly so I prepped some books on tapes and podcasts but in the end I just ended up talking with the people who always fell into a similar pace as me or thinking about what I needed to do during the next break (use the bathroom, change clothes, eat, drink, etc.).
The other thing that I found really interesting was the amount of mind and body connection I felt towards the end. I had mentally established a finish line for myself when I decided that I would try and be the last woman in the race. When the only other woman standing began to struggle to make the hour time cutoff, I became really tired. It was as if my brain had told my body that the finish was close and I could start to relax and rest soon.
The nice surprise I found was that after LSS I was pretty tired for a week, but nothing hurt since ski touring is low impact. The following week I felt incredibly fit and really strong in the mountains. It turned out to be a huge training plus for me and I look forward to that this year.
[Laughs] Well I certainly don't intend to go for 63 hours (referring to the 2023 winner’s time), but I do want to make it to the second night again. In general I am just excited to ski, be around the community and atmosphere and get the training boost.
This interview was written by Meg Pierce. Meg is a 2023 recipient of the Hilaree Nelson Scholarship and a board member of Inclusive Ski Touring where she works to expand uphill access with a focus on Women's Programs. She also competed in the 2023 Last Skier Standing. It was her first ultra race and she timed out on her 12th lap for a total of 14,291 vertical feet and 35 miles.