This year’s Al Johnson Race – the 35th – was held March 22 and the individual winners for this year were Travis Scheefer and Rebecca Dussault. The race started at the bottom of the North Face Lift and ended on the East River Lift’s Black Eagle. So, competitors climbed a grueling 600 feet and then plunged 1,200 down through Crested Butte’s famous Extreme Limits.
The race has a great story. In the late 1800’s, Al Johnson was a mail carrier who traveled between various mining communities in the Crested Butte area. He was known for his courage on skis and held himself to the principle that “the mail must go through.” At roughly 9000 feet, the seventeen miles he traversed from Crystal to Crested Butte are some of the most treacherous winter terrain in the Gunnison Valley. Johnson would strap on mail sacks, which often weighed more than twenty-five pounds, and ski with this burden through snowy, rugged canyons and passes.