“It does bode well for going to Aspen”
It’s on, people. Thanks to the cooperation of Mother Nature and the tireless effort of the race and snow safety crew, 200 teams of two should be heading out from the base of Crested Butte Mountain Resort on Friday, March 27 at midnight, bound for Aspen in the 2015 Gore-Tex Grand Traverse, though racers might get a little wet.
Over the 17-year history of the race, it’s been turned around only three times due to avalanche hazard, with the most recent reverse last year.
“We got a lot of snow the day before the race but couldn’t get the Star Pass area prepared in 24 hours,” says race co-director and multiple Grand Traverse winner Bryan Wickenhauser.
But this year, while the snow pack is a bit thin, the weather is looking favorable for racers to make the trip from the base of Crested Butte Mountain Resort to Aspen. The snow safety team reported four inches of new snow Monday night with high winds and more is forecasted for Wednesday, but nothing too significant.
“I think it’s all manageable snow amounts,” says Wickenhauser. “It does bode well for going to Aspen.”
And while the avalanche hazard looks to be manageable, the race will not be without natural hazards and some multi-sport action associated with a low snow year.
“There’s definitely going to be some running for sure,” says Wickenhauser. “The first Brush Creek crossing is open but the water is shallow. It’ll probably require taking your skis off, but it’s no higher than the buckles on your boot.”
The big water crossing though is the East River behind Crested Butte Mountain Resort. In 2012 there was no dry way across the river so race organizers spanned the river with a makeshift bridge. As of press time, things were looking good for a snow bridge to be in place but Wickenhauser says they are prepared to keep athletes’ feet dry.
“We are prepared for another TGI river crossing,” says Wickenhauser. “It’s too early in the race to expect people to get their feet wet. It’s a safety issue.”
While the race starts Friday at midnight, there are other activities leading up to the event for both participants and the public.
The festivities start on Thursday, March 26 with the Skin with the Pros and Dynafit Nachtspektakel from 4:40 to 6:30 p.m. Several local skimo athletes will be on hand at the Elevation fire pit to skin up with anyone looking for some tricks of the trade.
“You’ll be able to get some pointers on more efficient transitions and technique,” says race co-director Andrew Arell.
Then you can keep on skinning up to the Ten Peaks area, top of Painter Boy Lift, for a twilight dinner at the Dynafit Nachtspektakel. The cost is $20 and includes dinner, dessert and Upslope beer.
Following that you can bomb down the hill and head to the Majestic Theatre in town for Endurance Film Night and a raffle. The film night is free to racers, $5 to the public and will include a raffle with a pair of Dynafit Chugach skis and a Dynafit kit up for grabs.
For fans, teams can be followed online during the entire race with live tracking. Racers can get up to date snowpack and course conditions report every day leading up to the race online. Event schedules, information, live tracking and course updates can all be found at www.elkmountainstraverse.com.
Wickenhauser expects winning teams to complete the course somewhere between seven and a half and eight hours, with the rest of the field coming in all day Saturday.
“The biggest variable in terms of time is the section above Trampe’s land,” says Wickenhauser. “If we can ski all of that and don’t get too much snow, seven and a half hours is well within reach.”