In an attempt to draw attention to climate change and its effect on ski-town economies, Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron is teaming up with Crested Butte Mayor Aaron Huckstep on Saturday for the Power of Four ski-mountaineering race.
Skadron and Huckstep work together as president and vice president, respectively, of the Colorado Association of Ski Towns, an organization made up of representatives from more than 20 mountain towns. The duo also will compete together in this year’s Grand Traverse, a 40-mile race between Crested Butte and Aspen.
With about 12,000 feet of vertical gain over 25 miles — including summiting Highland Bowl — Power of Four competitors will hike and skin Snowmass, Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands and Aspen Mountain.
The first year Skadron competed in the race, he said it was a tough day, and he hopes to bounce back this year. Although Huckstep has competed in the Grand Traverse four times, he has never done the Power of Four. Both mayors agreed the purpose is not to compete with the likes of John Gaston and Max Taam, who won the 2013 Power of Four with a time of 4 hours, 52 minutes, 50 seconds, but to have fun and discuss mountain-town issues along the way.
“It’s competing ski towns collaborating on issues that are important to them,” Skadron said.
Huckstep, known as “Huck” to friends, said the part he is most looking forward to is crossing the finish line and grabbing a beer. He suspected the most challenging part of the race will be the last downhill on Aspen Mountain, where his legs will be ready to give.
“It’s interesting,” Skadron said. “We’ve never participated in anything together. We’ve mountain-biked together at a (Colorado Association of Ski Towns) meeting in Crested Butte over the summer. So it’s never a good strategy to go into one of these endurance races not knowing the level of your partner.”
Like Huckstep, Skadron said the downhill portions will be more challenging than the uphill stretches. He said surviving the Congo Trail, a connection between Highlands and Midnight Mine, will be particularly difficult.
The Grand Traverse and the Power of Four are two of the more respected tandem-mountaineering races outside Europe, Skadron said.
“It speaks to our desire in this community to be at the forefront of this explosion in uphill fitness,” Skadron said, noting that it’s common to see more people hiking up Buttermilk’s Tiehack than skiing down.
Huckstep said the more you compete in ski-mountaineering events, the easier it gets because at a minimum, you know what to expect. For example, he has gotten a better feel for when to pull his skins and when to leave them on. In terms of training, both mayors said they’ve spent time in the backcountry.
“To me, that’s the best part about it,” Huckstep said. “You’re going to go do a ski race, so how do you train for that? Well, you just go ski. I’m sure that the guys who are looking to come in first have certainly trained, but our objective is a little different than that.”
Huckstep said he suspects he and Skadron will try to get other mayors aboard for future events.
“Of course we’ll go faster than all of them, but they can at least try and join us,” Huckstep said.