Grin and Bear It on course for July

New course option, new format, same awesomeness

by Than Acuff

Nothing is going to stop the Grin and Bear It, not even a pandemic, as Crested Butte Nordic has a plan in place to keep the 37-year-long tradition alive. In addition, they’re adding to the tradition offering a longer, loop option.

For 36 years, runners have been charging up the Green Lake Trail to the shores of Green Lake before turning around and nearly freefalling their way back down the same Green Lake Trail.

Last year, a plan was set in motion to tack on an additional option. While the classic out-and-back 15-kilometer course would remain in place, Crested Butte Nordic board vice president Martin Catmur and Crested Butte Nordic director of events Andrew Arell discussed creating a 25-kilometer loop that would incorporate the recently built Baxter Gulch Trail between Gibson’s Ridge and Whetstone Mountain.

“We wanted to give the Grin and Bear It a whole new life after 30-plus years,” says Arell. “Create a little more of a difficult challenge and reinvigorate trail runners, especially local trail runners, to a new competition. It just made obvious sense once the Baxter Gulch Trail was created to have an entire loop.”

The required permissions and permitting never fell into place last summer, but this summer everything is set and things are in place for the Grin and Bear It, COVID-19 edition.

Unfortunately, the current health situation has put a slight crimp on things but Crested Butte Nordic has proven adaptable and teamed up with TerraQuest to offer a “virtual” Grin and Bear It for both the classic 15-kilometer course and the new 25-kilometer loop.

The new loop starts at the same place as the classic course, but heads up to the Bench and out Journey’s End Road before turning onto the highway to the Baxter Gulch trailhead.

From there it’s nothing but sweet high alpine trail following the Baxter Gulch Trail to Carbon Creek Trail and then turning right to eventually hit the Green Lake Trail and then descending down that back to the Nordic Center start/finish spot.

The loop must be run in that direction to count as a legitimate result.

Crested Butte Nordic and TerraQuest plan to have registration and everything else in place by Friday, June 19 for people to start signing up. Runners will have between July 1 and July 31 to post their time on either, or both, courses and can do it as many times as they wish, with their fastest times being the ones that count toward prizes.

Speaking of prizes, the top male and female on the classic and the new loop courses will be awarded the North Face prize package. All participants will receive a swag package and will be entered into a raffle for more prizes as well.

Arell is hoping that numbers will remain steady, if not continue to increase as they have over the past couple of years.

“It’s been on an upward trend,” says Arell. “Last year we had just over 100 and we’re hoping for between 75 and 100 this year as well.”

The leaderboard will be available for viewing on both the TerraQuest website as well as through

To get in on the virtual Grin and Bear It, follow these simple steps:

Create a Terra Quest profile (utilizing the Terra Quest app, or website). Once your Terra Quest profile is created, you’ll need to join one (or both!) of the Grin & Bear It Challenges. Through Terra Quest you’ll also be able to sync your preferred tracking device/application to record your race performance.

Race your course anytime between July 1 and July 31. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the course specifics for your chosen challenge. Courses will not be directionally flagged, or marked whatsoever.

Once you’ve completed a challenge, submit/upload your track to Terra Quest. This final step will ensure your result is displayed in the Grin & Bear It – Leaderboard Standings. If you do not complete the specific course route, your performance result will not be displayed on the challenge leaderboard.

The best part about the Grin and Bear It is it serves as a fundraiser for the Crested Butte Nordic Team, who has already been out training this summer to prepare for a stellar 2020-2021 winter season.

Looking ahead, things are looking good for a successful original format North Face Grand Traverse Mountain Run and Bike September 5-6. While it will be modified, the plan is to not be virtual.

“We’re moving forward and submitting our plans to Gunnison and Pitkin counties,” says Arell. “Hopefully by mid-July we will have a better idea of how things are looking.”

For more information and to register for the Grin and Bear It and/or the North Face Grand Traverse Mountain Run and Bike go to

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