Elk Mountains Grand Traverse – Linking Crested Butte to Aspen for 10 Years Legendary Backcountry Ski Race Challenges Athletic Skills & Smarts
One of the most interesting and challenging backcountry ski races on the planet celebrated 11 years of memorable moments and amazing athletic feats in 2008. The 11th annual Elk Mountains Grand Traverse is a backcountry ski race that follows mail routes that connected the Colorado mining towns of Crested Butte and Aspen in the 1880s.
It kicked off at the stroke of midnight, March 28, and is a one-of-a-kind test of endurance and smarts, requiring avalanche awareness, backcountry athleticism, winter camping knowledge and map reading skills all wrapped in one.
Racers traverse behind the San Moritz Condos on Hunter Hill Road about an hour after the start.
At midnight, approximately 250 racers (125 teams of two racers each) departed from the traditional starting line at the Crested Butte Community School in town, caught the old Upper Loop Trail, skirted along Hunter Hill Road and dropped into Crested Butte Mountain Resort ski area in Mt. Crested Butte. Cheering crowds, torches and a firework display greeted the racers as they passed through the base area just below the Silver Queen lift.
After the parade review, the teams climbed up and over Crested Butte Mountain Resort terrain, exiting just below the East River lift, crossed the East River valley, turned down stream and rejoined the course on Brush Creek Road before climbing over two mountain passes. Nine hours later, on March 29, racers arrived in Aspen bleary-eyed and exultant at the finish line.
The Grand Traverse is not a Nordic or downhill race, but instead tests skiers overall skills and goes from town-to-town, covering 40 miles of rugged trails in the Elk Mountains. Every event dishes up new surprises for the contestants and the organizers. When Grand Traverse began 11 years ago, it was fashioned after similar events in Europe that connect various villages.
Competitors in 2007 faced some of the toughest weather conditions in the history of the race, resulting in slower-than-normal but very admirable completion times. Mike Kloser and Stephen White of Vail won the men’s division and overall with a time of 8:46:50. Ted Mahon and Christy Sauer of Aspen captured the co-ed division in 10:59:10. Audrey DuRoss of Salt Lake City and Madeleine Mulliken of Crested Butte finished at 13:04:10 leading the women’s division.
Kloser, Henry win the 2008 Grand Traverse