Mountain Mayhem: Elk Mountains Grand Traverse

May Selby
Mountain Mayhem
Beautiful views from Star Pass on the Grand Traverse run.

Last weekend’s weather was perfect for The Elk Mountains Grand Traverse races – starting with a 40.7-mile run from Mt. Crested Butte to Aspen on Saturday, Sept. 4 with a 6,000-foot gain and 7,000-foot drop in elevation, then a mountain bike ride in the opposite direction the next day. A couple hundred participated in each race, which included some brave souls who toughed it out by taking part in both. Just the run was enough for me this time and I can’t wait to do it again.

A light layer of fog near the start of the Grand Traverse run. Maggie Silvers photo.

The history of the Grand Traverse has its roots in ski mountaineering when the original race was conceived by Jan Runge of Crested Butte back in the ’90s. Partially based on the historical mail routes that connected the two Colorado mining towns in the 1880s, it also drew inspiration from the Patrouille des Glaciers, a point-to-point ski race in Switzerland which Runge had become familiar with in the ’80s.

In 1998, with the help of the community, Runge gave it a shot, sending a brave field of competitors from Crested Butte over the Elk Mountains to Aspen. It was a success and only grew in interest over the years. It’s now evolved to have a summer version with the run and bike races.

Rex Topper hugs his mom, Maggie Silvers, at Ajax Park, after finishing the Grand Traverse run.
Ready to run: Sean Van Horn (who clinched second overall), Zach McCarthy (entered in his first-ever running race), me, Charlie Lucarelli, and our chauffeur, Dylan Smith. Courtesy photo.

The spirit, camaraderie and weather all played in a part in the success last weekend and the Roaring Fork Valley was well represented with the champions for each race hailing from here – Simi Hamilton of Aspen clinching first in the run and Mike Sampson of Carbondale crossing the finish line first in the bike race.

Learn more about the Grand Traverse races online –

2021 Grand Traverse mountain bike race champion Mike Sampson of Carbondale. Courtesy photo.
Stephanie Ryan of Aspen, the poster child for the 2021 Grand Traverse races. Courtesy photo.
Simi Hamilton of Aspen after winning the Grand Traverse run. Courtesy photo.
Jenna Holcomb with her husband, Rodrigo Sierra, at the start of the bike race.
Aspen Mountain ski patrollers Mike Britt and Steve Rausch lead the mountain bikers out of the gate for their race.
Charlie Lucarelli celebrating his 40th birthday with a 40-mile race and champagne spraying at the finish line!
And they're off – the neutral start on Ute Avenue for the mountain bike race.
The pre-race meeting in Crested Butte for the run included a blessing of the course and a safety briefing by the race director.
Aspen Times Weekly

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