Hello Utah Skimo’rs,

This is Joel Trachtenberg.  Who knew when I accepted to be president of Utah Skimo at the beginning of last season that specializing in infectious diseases would be useful in organizing an event series?  Since we wrapped up last season all of our worlds have changed.  As of the writing of this post nearly 51 million people worldwide have been infected, and over 10 million in the United States.  Tragically we have lost over 1.2 million people worldwide to this disease, and nearly 240 thousand in the US. 

COVID numbers in Utah are currently spiking and our hospitals are experiencing near capacity.  I see the daily emotional stress and fatigue in our staff.  To all of those in our community who are essential workers (medical and non-medical), who don a mask daily, and who put themselves in harm’s way for the good of our society, we applaud and thank you.

This year we have also witnessed multiple, glaring examples of racial inequities and injustice, both in Utah and in the greater U.S.  Millions of people are currently unemployed or under-employed and are truly struggling.  And, of course, our skies have been hazy from historic western wildfires, greatly exacerbated by our climate crisis.

I have struggled why, despite so many critical issues that need to be addressed, I am spending so much time organizing a series where people ski uphill and chase each other around in the dark and cold.  On the surface, our obsession and diversion seem (and are) rather fickle.  Indeed, compared to all the aforementioned problems and challenges, Utah Skimo’s mission to promote the sport of skimo in Utah and to support its community could easily be described as tone-deaf. 

So why am I doing this?  Why are all the amazing Utah Skimo board members and volunteers still doing this?  I think the answer lies in the second half of our mission “support its community.” There are few sports which could be described as more alternative than skimo.  You know what I mean.  Even your friends and family think of this passion of yours as somewhat…odd.  But in this strange and wonderful sport we find kindred spirits and friends who recognize many of the world’s problems, who have a passion to effect change, and have a vision to create a better and alternative future.  When we come together as a community our potential and our impact is multiplied and is substantial.  

This season will be challenging, it will certainly look different.  We have plans in place to safely run socially distanced, in-person events.  We also planned for virtual challenges.  However, the COVID situation is much different today than the situation even 4 weeks ago when we were finalizing our event schedule.  We agree with the new social gathering mandates and will abide by them.

In addition, we cannot in good conscience send people on virtual challenges while our hospital resources and personnel are being stretched so thin. Our hope is that the hospital burden will be reduced enough to run our first event on Dec 8 (likely virtual), but this remains to be seen.  As the local epidemic unfolds, you will receive a slew of posts and information regarding Utah Skimo membership, event dates, and protocols, and I hope conditions will become favorable to meet soon. 

Additionally, I want to emphasize the importance of not stressing hospital resources beyond capabilities.  For everyone’s sake continue to wear masks, socially distance, mind the new state guidelines, and don’t take unnecessary risks which could lead to medical and surgical care.  Everyone is adult enough to understand risk, and I am not going to define it.  But I will add that early season conditions are synonymous with buried snow sharks and unstable avalanche conditions.  If you go into the backcountry, tone it down.

In the meantime, we are focusing on advocacy.  This is also our obligation.  This year Utah Skimo will support the Utah Food Bank.  The Utah Food Bank distributed over 44 million meals last year.  With COVID, school closures, and our struggling economy, more people than ever are experiencing food insecurity.  Our specific plan to collect food is still being solidified, but it was planned to be linked to our now world-famous, post-event give-away from our amazing partners.  That’s right!! The more cans you donate before each event, the more chances you have to win drool-worthy gear.  At least that was the plan.  Though we are now on event hold, we still want to support the Utah Food Bank, and we will post our plans soon… So stay tuned!

After the cacophony of this election season, I was looking forward to hearing only the clacking of kick-turns, the ripping of skins, edges gripping the snow, and my hyperventilating breath on a sublime Tuesday night.  Though we have to wait a bit, let’s focus on being our best selves, as well as embracing the opportunity and privilege to help everyone to the finish line.  Stay well, stay safe, we have not forgotten about you, and we hope to toe the line with you soon.