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.
Fans came out in droves for the final day of the 2009 Subaru US Extreme Freeskiing Championships at Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR). The first stop on the 2009 Freeskiing World Tour (FWT), fifty athletes qualified for the final day in the Hourglass/Bermuda Triangle, an area off-limits to the everyday skier, but opened up for the final day thanks to the work of the Crested Butte Mountain Professional Ski Patrol. In the end, Michelle Manning and Clif Bennett both of Alta/Snowbird, Utah, would post the best-combined score to take the titles.
The Hourglass/Bermuda Triangle is a 1,000-vertical-foot drop with a sustained pitch of 40-degrees and reaching 60-degrees in several spots leaving skiers no room for mistakes. With no traffic in the area the entire season, competitors were treated to a mixed bag of conditions from soft powder, to bottomless, punchy holes and areas of completely bare rocks and trees.