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Rig up for the 44th annual Al Johnson race this Sunday

Hike up, ski down, party. It’s that easy.

Last Steep gets green light! (weather depending)

by Than Acuff

Sure, it’s all been said over and over and over again.

What did the telemark skier say when he ran out of weed? “This sport sucks.”

Lock the heel, ski for real.

Nobody cares that you tele.

How do you know if somebody is a telemark skier? They’ll tell you.

On and on and on.

Granted, the Al Johnson Memorial Uphill/Downhill Telemark Ski Race does involve telemark skiing—a sport that some have claimed is on its way out. But, it’s also about remembering and celebrating the efforts of a burly 19th-century mailman who delivered mail in remote mining camps around Crested Butte. It’s about a sport that was reborn here in Crested Butte. It’s about a race that was created here by some of the same men and women who pioneered terrain both on Crested Butte Mountain and in the surrounding mountains.

It’s about celebrating spring, partying, saying “Eff you” to the current administration, forgetting about housing, forgetting about Brush Creek, forgetting about helicopters, forgetting about lawsuits, forgetting your dog at home, forgetting your kids, blowing the doors off, shooting the lock off, acting like an idiot, dressing like an idiot, being an idiot, pushing the limits of what is possible aerobically, physically, psychologically, parenthetically, metamorphically, metaphysically, parthogenentically (that’s when you can have sex with yourself) and even, for some, seeing who can go the fastest both up and down a mountain.

It’s the Al Johnson, y’all, and it’s this Sunday, March 18.

Doesn’t matter if you don’t telemark anymore, or never have telemarked before. Just find the gear (it’s out there) and line up, go up when you are told to, go down where you are supposed to and cross the finish line when you are able to and then head to the party.

The Al Johnson is one of the—if not the—longest standing traditions in Crested Butte.

This year happens to be the 44th annual Al Johnson Race and, as it has been for the past four years, it’s also a fundraiser for the Crested Butte Avalanche Center.

Can’t find the gear or too scared to do it? Throw some cash at a friend you know who is doing it. Bet them $25 they can’t do it, and when they do, that money goes to the avalanche center. Bet them $100 they can’t finish top five. Bet them $500 they can’t finish in 44th place exactly. And, if they do, the money goes to the avalanche center. If they don’t, no harm, no foul, no money exchanged.

The reality is, what was once a race has now turned into a costume party and the modern man and woman might ask, “Why not open it to all modes of snow travel?”

One response is because it’s not the Al Johnson Memorial Uphill/Downhill All Modes of Snow Travel Race. It’s a tradition. We start losing our traditions and we start losing ourselves.

Let’s not forget the prizes. There are so many prizes provided by the Alpineer, local businesses and the avalanche center at the Al Johnson party it’s almost grotesque. Top five men, top five women, best costumes, best crash, 44th place, most money raised, the list goes on and on for prize recognition. Free beer too, from Avery Brewing Company, until it runs out.

Now to the details.

Pre-registration is available online at cbavalanchecenter.org. That is also where you will find information to sponsor someone to raise additional money for the Crested Butte Avalanche Center. You can also walk into the Alpineer until 6 p.m. on Friday, March 16 to pre-register. And, if you still haven’t signed up by then, you still can walk into the Brick Oven Sunday, March 18 from 8 to 9:30 a.m., but it will cost you a little more.

The tag team race starts at the base of the North Face lift at High Noon, the individual race at 1 p.m. and the party at Butte 66 starts at 4 p.m.

Look, it seems as if everyone is walking the razor’s edge these days. Make the Al Johnson your one chance to put everything behind you for a day and kick down so we can get down.

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