GUNNISON-CRESTED BUTTE, COLORADO (February 16, 2010) – One of the most sought after and rugged backcountry ski races on the planet celebrates 13 years of memorable moments and amazing athletic feats on March 26 – 27. The 13th annual Elk Mountains Grand Traverse, presented by Mountain Hardwear, follows historic mail routes that connected the Colorado mining towns of Crested Butte and Aspen in the 1880s.
Registration opened on Dec. 1 and quickly sold out with the maximum 130 team slots filled. Check the bulletin board at www.elkmountaintraverse.org for openings that become available.
Race Overview & Route
Kicking off at the stroke of midnight on March 26, the Grand Traverse is a one-of-a-kind test of endurance and smarts, requiring avalanche awareness, backcountry athleticism, winter camping knowledge and map reading skills all wrapped in one. This unusual start time is scheduled so entrants will reach the high point of Star Pass at 12,303 feet before the warmth of the day increases the likelihood of avalanches.
The 40-mile course starts at 9,000 feet at Crested Butte Community School and traverses to Crested Butte Mountain Resort, where cheering crowds, torches and a fireworks display greet the racers as they pass through the base area just below the Silver Queen lift. After conquering two mountain passes, the teams finish at the base of Aspen Mountain ski area.
“The Grand Traverse is not a Nordic or downhill race, but instead tests skiers overall skills and goes from town-to-town, covering 40 miles of rugged trails in the Elk Mountains. Every event dishes up new surprises for the contestants and the organizers. When Grand Traverse began 13 years ago, it was fashioned after similar events in Europe that connect various villages,” says Jan Runge, race organizer.
In 2009, Mike Kloser of Vail and Jay Henry of Beaver Creek won the men’s division and overall with a time of 9:17:40 in very difficult conditions. Locals took second and third with Ethan Passant and Travis Scheefer crossing the finish line at 9:28:30 and Jake Jones and Pat O’Neill only seven minutes behind at 9:35:30.
Grethe Haggensen and Andrew Kasting captured the co-ed division in (11:02:30) and Maile Wade and Jenny Hamilton finished at 11:12:10, leading the women’s division.
Keeping Racers Safe
Top priorities of race organizers are the safety of all participants and a minimal impact on the environment. Because of the remote route through the Elk Mountains, each team of two is required to carry enough food and supplies to sustain themselves for 24 hours. Before the race start, the team’s packs will be checked for essential gear such as bivy sacks, stove, fuel, avalanche beacons, rescue gear, and first-aid and repair kits. More than 40 support team members are present in the backcountry during the race. Some crews are out in the backcountry for a week before the event, assessing avalanche conditions and moving supplies into remote camps. Local pilots also assist by airdropping supplies into alpine basins.
The Grand Traverse is continuing its partnership with Save Our Snow Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to calculating, reducing and offsetting greenhouse gas emissions and energy use, while also producing local alternative energy and stimulating economic development for the outdoor sports industry. Decisions concerning the race are aimed at reducing its carbon footprint, and racers are encouraged to train with a low carbon footprint approach. Also, sponsors will be able to display how their companies are working toward environmental protection for the first time in 2010. For example New Belgium Brewing has a zero carbon footprint, Runge notes.
“Our goal is to undergo a progressive greening of the race over the next several years. This is really the only ‘sustainable’ thing to do-without snow, there won’t really be a 50th annual Elk Mountains Grand Traverse and all of us involved with the race would like to pass on a sustainable legacy to the next generation of skier,” she says.
For more information, call Race Director Jan Runge at (970) 349-7133 or visit www.elkmountaintraverse.org .
Visitor Information & Personalized Vacation Packages
To find out more about Gunnison County events or to book personalized vacation packages, call the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association’s toll-free line, (800) 814-8893, or visit www.GunnisonCrestedButte.com . Find the Tourism Association on Facebook at www.facebook.com/gcbta or follow us on www.twitter.com/gcbta .
The Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport is served year-round by United Airlines with flights from Denver and during the winter season by American Airlines with direct flights from Dallas/Fort Worth and Delta Air Lines with direct flights from Salt Lake City and Atlanta.