Once known as the Elk Mountains Grand Traverse, I learned about this race in 2003 and wanted to attend it ever since. With other commitments lined up I will have to postpone it once again but since some of you are going, here, I want to provide you of what to expect and how to go about preparing for it.
At midnight on Friday March 28th, 2014 a head-lamped horde will set out from Crested Butte, CO for the town of Aspen, CO. Skiing 40 miles through the backcountry at night, teams of two racers carry the equipment needed to navigate a largely unmarked course past two checkpoints before finishing down Aspen Mountain in the sunlight. This annual ritual of athleticism and backcountry hardiness now called the Gore-Tex Grand Traverse is among the longest and most challenging skimo races in North America.
Modeled after European-style traverse races and based on old mail routes between Crested Butte and Aspen, the Grand Traverse gains only seven-thousand vertical feet over its length, offering instead the more variable challenges of a true backcountry experience: the unmarked course has offered temperatures well-below zero, variable snow conditions, open river crossings, and snowless hillsides in years past.
The Grand Traverse has traditionally been a race won by nordic skiers with metal-edged touring skis until in recent years advances in alpine touring race equipment have put randonnee skiers on the podium, with only the strongest nordic teams remaining among the top-ten finishers.
Interview – training and gear
In the following interview, Patrick Fink interviews Team Crested Butte member Jon Brown who answers questions about the training and gear that contribute to a successful and competitive Grand Traverse.
Jon has raced ten of the last twelve Grand Traverses, winning the race in 2006 with his partner Brian Smith. He talks about the strategy he uses to prepare for a race with so much time on the flats, the lightest possible kit for the traverse, and the “positive attitude and sense of adventure” needed to make the race into an “amazing experience”. His extensive experience with the traverse shows through, offering nuggets of hard-won wisdom for first-timers and veterans alike.
Continue to the interview and enjoy, it’s a nice read: