The 19th Grand Traverse: Another Successful Reverse
Photo: // Trent Bona/Grand Traverse
Written by: Amos Horn
Amid cloudy skies, spitting snow, high winds and many different rumors, the 19th annual Grand Traverse seemed to be a go after Race Director Andrew Arell told a crowded room of athletes they would be heading to Aspen in a few short hours.
Before the pre-race meeting at Crested Butte Mountain Resort, no one was sure of what the course would be. Rumors of a reverse, a modification of the race where athletes would go to the Friends Hut and then back to Crested Butte instead of the full 40-miles to Aspen, were the talk of the morning. On and off snow, combined with high winds throughout the night, and morning of, Friday, had many wondering about the safety of racers.
During the mandatory pre-race meeting, these rumors were to be put to rest, with confirmation that the race would be going to Aspen. The Grand Traverse team had taken a close look at the weather forecast and decided the window of safe travel was there and racers would be sent out at 12 a.m. Saturday to take on the 40 mile, 7,800 foot elevation gain, race. Confirming the news on their Facebook page, the Grand Traverse wrote, “Just in case you missed it. We’re going from Crested Butte to Aspen tonight.”
The scene during the mandatory racer meeting at Crested Butte Ski Resort // Photo: David Crothers
With a break in the clouds and an excited group of 550 athletes, the energy was high and people were ready for a competitive race. As the day grew to night, however, things began to change. The storm moved back in and snow began falling harder than expected. Concern grew for avalanche conditions and visibility on the course. Finally, what seemed like a cut and dry decision earlier in the day was reversed just three hours before the start of the race. Updating the public again via Facebook, Grand Traverse posted, “Due to unforeseen severe weather and high avalanche danger, we will not be going to Aspen and are implementing the reverse route.” They then continued with, “This morning at 11 a.m., based on conditions at the time and forecasts from numerous weather models, we made the call that conditions would permit a race to Aspen. Since then, the forecasts have proven to be remarkably inaccurate.” With reported new snow measuring up to two feet on parts of the course and forecasts now showing a strengthening storm, the tough decision to make the race a reverse was made.
With the course now wrapping around Mt. Crested Butte for a total of 33.5 miles and 7,329 feet of elevation gain, racers lined up in the dark just before 12 a.m. Hundreds of headlamps shone in the night during a skiers blessing for the racers, and then they were off into the night. In teams of two, racers skinned their way out to the Friends hut, up to the basin above the hut, over Strand Hill, circled around Mt. Crested Butte, and reconnected with their paths for the decent back to the base of Crested Butte Mountain Resort.
Despite the last minute reversal of the course, the Grand Traverse went off successfully.
A quick six hours and 30 minutes after taking off, racers Max Taam and John Gaston of Aspen, Colorado sped past the finish line to take first place. Taam, and Gaston, both experienced racers, came in ten minutes before the second place team of J. Marshall Thomson and Rob Krar. Taking third place, with a time of six hours and 55 minutes, were Olympic Cross-country skiers and brothers Ben and Nils Koons who skated in on traditional Nordic gear.
On the female side, team Plant-Young came in at seven hours and 46 minutes just three minutes ahead of team Larochelle-Hagen. Stevie Kremer and Jari Kirkland finished third at eight hours and five minutes.
Left to right: Stevie Kremer, Marshall Thompson, Rob Krar. No muffins were hurt during the shooting of this photo. // Photo: David Crothers
New snow, a change in course and a midnight start made for a tough race, but not tough enough to rattle the racers. Congrats to those who braved the cold and the snow and to the Grand Traverse team for putting on a successful 19th annual Grand Traverse.