Park City teenager takes home 3 medals in age group at ski mountaineering world championships
Griffin Briley finishes first in individual race, top 3 in 2 others
Park City teenager and ski mountaineering athlete Griffin Briley had some hardware to pack in his luggage before heading home from the world championships in Boí Taülll, Spain, located in the heart of the Pyrenees.
Briley was a standout in the U18 division, winning the individual race on March 4 and landing on the podium in the vertical (second) and sprint (third) races on March 1 and Feb. 28.
“I had a really great time being there this year with my team and competing with all the other kids my age,” Briley said. “It’s just so inspiring. The atmosphere is so cool because it’s kind of a niche sport in the United States, so when you go over to Europe, it’s out of this world. That’s what they do over there. Their history is so rich with ski mountaineering.”
“It’s an honor to have a kid of that class, both as an athlete and as a person,” added Adam Loomis, who coaches Briley at Park City Ski & Snowboard as the ski mountaineering program director. “I can’t take a lot of credit for his success, but it’s pretty remarkable. Obviously, what he’s done has been turning serious heads, but every time he gets a chance to talk or an event, he’s just always super gracious and super humble.”
Briley started racing in ski mountaineering about four years ago after his father introduced him to the sport. Briley already had some experience with touring and enjoyed being in the mountains, so it was a natural fit.
“I just figured that this was something that I really enjoyed, that I really had a deep love for it, and I wanted to be able to keep up with my dad and do bigger objectives,” Briley said. “That eventually led to me meeting some people, and I joined the Park City skimo team in 2020, and I’ve been racing with them ever since.”
Ski mountaineering, also known as skimo, is a burgeoning discipline in the winter sports scene. Skimo races differ between formats, but at its core, it involves uphill ski racing.
“In simple terms, it’s when you go up a ski slope with skins on the bottom of your skis, and your heel is free, so you can walk pretty freely,” Briley said. “It’s like Nordic skiing, but the skis are a little bigger, and the bindings and boots are – you’re able to ski downhill. So, at the top of the hill, you rip the skins off and then you ski downhill, typically on off-piste terrain.”
Heading into the world championships, Loomis had a good feeling about how Briley would perform against the top athletes in his age group.
“It was honestly not that surprising, but also really cool to see because … I had a feeling that he was going to be there, and he was able to bring a pretty good performance to the championship,” Loomis said. “It’ll be interesting to see over the next couple years, he’s already pretty close to the level of the top, if not at the top, of the U.S. skimo field, so it’ll be interesting to see how he goes through the ranks as he progresses toward being a senior.”
What sets Briley apart from other skimo athletes is his year-round work ethic, according to Loomis.
“Obviously, in the winter, it’s pretty much just skiing, but throughout the summer, he spends a lot of time in the mountains on foot, trail running,” Loomis said. “He rides mountain bikes, gravel bikes. Definitely for his age, I think he has a pretty good base.”
“I think it’s a combination of what he’s doing, he’s been doing it for a long time,” he added. “Obviously, he’s got some genetic predisposition to being a talented endurance athlete. And then, I think he just really enjoys it, so he’s psyched to be outside. He seems to know his body pretty well and kind of knows what he needs to be to be able to continue to improve.”
Briley’s preferred racing format is the individual race, which consists of multiple climbs and descents and was the same race that he won in Spain. He was in the lead pack after the first climb and said he took the lead after the transition.
“There were three climbs in total, I believe, so the second climb started out flat and then you come up to this technical skin track, where it was nice to see all of my teammates cheering for me,” Briley said. “It really gave me that extra pickup because it’s always just, like, a fight in your head. It’s a fight against yourself, really.”
Skimo will be a part of the 2026 Winter Olympics in Italy with sprint events for men and women as well as a mixed relay event. While it’s still three years away, it’s on Briley’s radar.
“I think every skimo athlete has eyes on the Olympics, though it’s only the sprint race and the mixed relay,” Briley said. “Of course, everybody wants to go to the Olympics, whether or not it shows the true side of ski mountaineering. For sure, it’s a goal.”
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