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12th annual Gothic Mountain Tour this weekend

Test your skimo skills

by Than Acuff

Hard to believe, but the 12th Annual Gothic Mountain Tour (GMT) is set to go off early Saturday, February 24. Crested Butte Nordic started the event as a little introduction to the world of skimo racing and it has grown into a full-blown race. In addition, it’s a great test for people who are entered into the Grand Traverse race later this year, or considering doing the Grand Traverse in the future.

“It’s a really good race for people to figure out if they are capable of doing the Grand Traverse,” explains director of marketing for Crested Butte Nordic and former GMT race director Drew Holbrook. “Some people do this race with their GT partner to get a feel for how it works for both of them and to make sure all of their gear is working. Inevitably people wait until the last minute and this is a good way to force yourself to get everything together well in advance.”

It starts right in the town of Crested Butte behind the school at 6 a.m., requiring racers to start with headlamps fully ablaze as they make their way through the first part of the course in the dark. The sun eventually comes up, as it always does, and the headlamps are turned off just as the challenge starts to really take hold. The course offers over 22 miles of skiing with over 5,000 feet of climbing, linking the East River valley to the Washington Gulch drainage and then finishing in the Slate River valley. It’s a three-valley tour of some spectacular terrain.

“I would say it’s like no other event in our state,” says Crested Butte Nordic events director Andrew Arell. “The scenery surpasses that of the Grand Traverse on a sunny day.”

Wanna get a feel for skimo but not interested in the 22-mile full tour? Well, the good folks at Crested Butte Nordic have an alternative short-course option. The short course tour starts at 8 a.m. and is 12 miles long with 2,000 vertical feet of climbing. Short coursers will be responsible for their own shuttle and there will be no official finish line or time. The short course is a tour, not a race, and folks typically ski it in groups. Although the descent from Top of the World to the Washington Gulch Trailhead can be tricky, Nordic skis can be used.

“I like keeping that option to give the more human-like people a chance to participate,” says Arell.

The long course does make its way in and out of avalanche terrain and failure to respect and adhere to the enforced cut-off times and/or the specified course will result in your name being blacklisted from all future Crested Butte Nordic events, including the Grand Traverse.

“It’s of the utmost importance that participants adhere to the set course,” says Arell. “It’s for the safety of the skiers and the volunteers.”

As of press time, the Crested Butte Avalanche Center was heading into the hills to check on avalanche conditions and work on the course. While everyone wants the race to go off, conditions may force race organizers to call it off.

“We don’t have the option to postpone; it’s either go or no go,” says Arell. “Not sure when we will make the final call. Maybe Thursday evening but no later than Friday morning.”

As of Tuesday there were more than 90 racers signed up already and Crested Butte Nordic is hoping for more to be lined up Saturday morning.

“They’re continuing to come in as we speak,” says Arell. “We’ve never gone over 100 but that’s our hope.”

Information and registration can all be found at cbnordic.org.

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