Test yourself before you wreck yourself
Randonnee—a.k.a. ski mountaineering—racing is coming to Crested Butte this Saturday, January 30. The CAMP Ski Mountaineering Race at Crested Butte is the second stop of the Colorado Ski Mountaineering or “COSMIC” Series.
Three local athletes, Bryan Wickenhauser, Travis Scheefer and Jari Kirkland are on the U.S. Ski Mountaineering team headed to the world championships in February, and will be competing on their home hill in the event. It’s a golden opportunity for local human lungs to test themselves against some of the nation’s best randonnee ski racers.
The Crested Butte course is known throughout randonnee racing circles as one of the best on the circuit, with a lung-and-leg-busting opening climb and a long finishing descent.
“It’s the longest uninterrupted descent of any of the COSMIC races,” says COSMIC series promoter and U.S. Ski Mountaineering race team member Pete Swenson.
Furthermore, while the Crested Butte course is entirely within ski area boundaries, it still manages to maintain an off-piste, European racecourse feel.
“Even though you’re in a ski area, it has the most backcountry feel to it,” adds Swenson. “This course is the one with the most European feel to it.”
The opening climb begins at the base area and climbs up International before topping out at the top of the High Lift. One section of the International climb is notorious for pegging the leaders at the red line and punishing everyone else.
“That part has always been a little discouraging to people,” admits Swenson.
As a result, this year’s course will be set to avoid the steepest pitch of International with a series of switchbacks.
From there the course typically takes racers down the Headwall, on a tour of the North Face area, climbing up Teocalli Bowl and topping out with a boot pack to the peak before dropping all the way down the Peel back to the base.
As of Monday, the course had yet to be determined but recent snows should have everything in place except for the Peak hike.
“The snow will help our course options greatly,” says Swenson. “The Crested Butte Ski Patrol has been working hard and, hopefully, we can come off somewhat high off the Peel. At most we’ll just have to cut out the boot pack to the peak. It should be really nice.”
Swenson suggests checking out the COSMIC Facebook page for updated course information and touts the efforts of Annie Dyar, Drew Cesati and Crested Butte Mountain Resort for keeping the COSMIC series alive in Crested Butte. In addition, the sponsorship of CAMP has a bevy of prizes available for winners as well as participants and volunteers.
The cost for the race is $70 and includes a lift ticket and a meal at Butte 66. Ski pass holders pay $35. Registration will be held in the Capitol Room in the Elevation Hotel on Friday, January 29 from 5 to 7 p.m. and the morning of the race from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. There are two options available for athletes, a recreational course, which is shorter, or the big daddy race course.
“We encourage Friday registration,” says Swenson.
The awards party and raffle will be held at the Butte 66 at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
“Grab a plate of food, buy a beer and get lucky in the raffle,” says Swenson.
“Come out and race alongside Crested Butte’s contingent of athletes on the 2009 U.S. ski mountaineering team,” adds Wickenhauser. “With new terrain opening all week on CBMR, it will be a race to get the untracked powder stashes first.”