Janelle Smiley is probably one of the most fit women in America. She is always seeking out new, very physical challenges in the mountains. Mountaineering races are a test of an athlete’s endurance, strength, efficiency and skill. These strenuous races are a perfect place for Janelle showcase her talent.
This past weekend Janelle was crowned women’s North American Champion at the Wasatch Powder Keg event in Brighton, Utah. The map below shows the course that was completed by elite racers. Janelle was able to cover all that ground in just 2 hours and 12 minutes!
Besides competing, Janelle is busy planning and executing mountain climbs all over the continent. She and her husband Mark Smiley are in the midst of a project to climb 50 of North America’s finest routes. Their website includes top notch video footage taken en-route to their goal: www.smileysproject.com Check it out!
After her win down in Utah we caught up with Janelle to ask her how she does it…
When you first started racing did you ‘train’ to win, or simply show up?
I really just loved to go out and skin up the mountain whether it was the resort or in the backcountry I just went out a lot so I never really trained when I first started
How has training this year helped you to stay on top?
I will be honest I have not trained this year. I have been working out a hip injury that started last year, so this past weekend was my first real race. Don’t get me wrong I do get out a ton, I love riding chairlifts, and Snow King is out my back door so I do get out but this year it has always been for fun, so I go on long slow tours with friends. Anytime I would add in intensity it would just cause me too much pain. Crystal caught wind of my injury and said her training would help me strengthen my gluts. I also started training with Crystal Wright twice a week in the middle of this winter
How did you hurt your hip? Have you had any other injuries?
overuse, imagine that??? No other major injuries
Which exercise circuit has helped you the most?
I did general fitness with Crystal for about a month.
To me it seems like you must never stop moving. What do you do to relax? Do you sleep?
What does the word relax mean? Love sleeping
How did you get into ski mountaineering?
I loved skiing and climbing so when I heard there was a race with a title of Ski Mountaineering I was sold! I started on tele gear and it took me three years to obtain the lightish gear to make me somewhat competitive.
In the downhill sections, do you wish you could switch to bigger skis?
No, I really enjoy 160 length and 65 underfoot so easy to turn
What inspires you to go on these epic mountain adventures?
Sheer love of being in the mountains and finding the thin places
Have you ever spent a night out ‘spooning’ with someone not so ideal?
Love spooning, and I am always with the ideal one. Must choose partners wisely !
Have you had any especially scary moments in the mountains?
Yes! Twice huge rocks have come tumbling down from above, one was a near miss and the other was a direct hit to my quad. That took a few months to overcome.
What is your van’s name?
What did you eat for breakfast before your race this weekend? I hope you say ‘bacon’.
I wish – Waffles with almond butter and ginger spread
Have you considered being a mountain guide?
I was for a couple years… I struggle with being responsible for other peoples lives and my husband says I am not patient enough
Would you describe your house as messy or clean?
both, depends on the day
What is your favorite veggie?
How do you balance real life and racing? … and mountain climbing?
My real life is climbing mountains and racing I know no other life
Do you plan to ‘settle down’ some day?
No, too scary
Did you compete in other sports growing up?
Cross-crounty running, volleyball, and out running my friends angry parents
Who taught you how to ski? How to climb?
Ski – my mom
Climb – my older brother Jeremy
What’s your favorite piece of gear?
La sportiva cube ski boots
Why should young athletes aspire to compete in ski mountaineering?
Because it is the most fun sport in the world, you get your heart rate up on the climb and them you get to ski down, perfect!
If you could dream up an ideal race course, what would it look like?
The Teton Grand Traverse in winter with skis would be pretty sweet
Who is your favorite superstar? Who do you look up to?
Anyone who is passionate about something – astrophysics, coffee, mermaids, numbers, turkeys…it doesn’t matter just people who are passionate and not afraid to go after it