Vertical Up in Val Gardena, Dolomites

The only way is up: racers get set for the back to front downhill in Val Gardena

And they're off... registration is now open for the first 'Vertical Up' to be held in Val Gardena Dolomites.

Vertical Up is the perfect answer for those who decide that taking a ski lift up the mountain and then skiing down it seems just that bit too easy and inadequately energetic.

The concept is simple - ignore the lifts and make the ascent under your own steam; to add more interest, make it competitive; and at night. That's the plan for the Saslong Uphill, the race that mirrors the famed Saslong World Cup downhill - but with no skis and from the Finish line to the Starting gate instead of the more conventional way round.

The Val Gardena-Groden Saslong Uphill is the second section of the five resort,three country Vertical Up tour and takes place on 21 January above the lovely Val Gardena town of Selva in Italy's Dolomites. Competitors have a choice of two courses - the long and the short route. The original course is 3.5 kilometres, with an 830-metre difference in altitude. The shorter track is almost 2 kilometres, with a 590-metre altitude.

The Start (or the Finish in Downhill terms) is 1,410-metres above sea level and the Finish points at 2,249-metres and 2,000-metres respectively. The maximum gradient is 56 per cent, and the average 24.5 per cent.

There are practically no rules - any type of footwear and clothing can be used and any line of ascent, as long as the only power is human strength. Light is provided by head-lamps and key sections are illuminated. Running spikes, crampons and touring skins are a few of the suggestions for racers.

Men and women are in separate categories and there are speed and 'backpack' classes. The speed winner is the overall fastest and the backpack winner is the one who clocks the time closest to the overall average.

There are cash prizes, non-cash gifts and gift certificates on offer, and a maximum of 1500 entrants. Registration opened on 10 October and runs through to 14 January for the Val Gardena section. Other Vertical Up races will be held at Hinterstoder (7 January); Madonna di Campiglio-Pinzolo (28 January); Kitzbuhel (25 February); and Wengen (25 March).

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