Smith, Goth break Grand Traverse skimo course record in race’s return to Aspen
Cam Smith’s bid for another course record looked a bit shaky last week after his original partner, Aspen legend John Gaston, had to withdraw because of injury.
No problem, as the Crested Butte athlete convinced his friend and national team cohort Tom Goth to hop into Sunday’s Grand Traverse ski mountaineering race last second as his new accomplice. The duo wasn’t phased by the circumstances, setting a new course record in the win and finishing more than an hour ahead of the second-place team.
“First thing, you feel for John, who obviously works so hard to train himself for these races, to not be able to do the event he was planning on,” Smith said. “It was definitely very stressful and anxiety provoking not knowing who I was racing with a couple of days before the event.”
Smith and Gaston — both national team members through the United States Ski Mountaineering Association — paired up to break the Power of Four skimo race record only three weeks prior. That daytime race takes athletes up and over the four Aspen ski mountains and is produced by Aspen Skiing Co.
The Grand Traverse is put on by Crested Butte Nordic and is a one-way trip from Crested Butte to Aspen that begins at midnight. Smith and Utah’s Goth crossed the finish line at the base of Aspen Mountain, near the Shadow Mountain lift, before the sun had even risen. Their time of 6 hours, 6 minutes and 24 seconds is officially a new course record.
“That goes a long way, having some experience with each other and knowing how you work together and your strengths and weaknesses,” said Smith, who has raced alongside Goth before, including in past Power of Four races. “Fortunately, Tom was willing to make a last-minute drive all the way from Utah over to jump in and join the party. He kind of joked about how this was the way to do it. He didn’t know he was racing until Thursday.”
Finishing second overall was Crested Butte’s Billy Laird and Jon Brown in 7:15:59. Laird and Brian Smith won the 2017 Power of Four skimo race, a year in which Gaston did not compete. Finishing third on Sunday was Norway’s Ola Jordheim and Steamboat’s Noel Keeffe in 7:39:40. Both are University of Utah skiers; Keeffe also is a member of the U.S. cross-country ski team.
The women’s title Sunday went to the Tory sisters, Sarah and Caroline, native Canadians who live in Aspen. They finished in 9:29:44. Hot on their heels were Crested Butte’s Molly Susla and Hanna Smith, who finished a spot back in 9:36:41. The third-place women’s team was Crested Butte’s Dana Kracaw and Emma Lohr, who came in with a time of 10:26:27.
Crested Butte’s Chris Edmonds and Stevie Kremer were the top co-ed finishers in 9:02:12.
“People really got rewarded by an extra special treatment this year with the full moon and the beautiful, clear skies and perfect conditions and nice snow on the descents,” Smith said. “It rewarded everyone that was bummed out about missing last year with an extra special night.”
Race conditions were nearly flawless this past weekend, with fast snow and clear skies, including an unusually bright moon to light the way. It was somewhat of a gift for the racers, considering the 2020 Grand Traverse had been canceled last spring because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Power of Four and Grand Traverse races were the highlight of the season for Smith, who like Gaston and Goth often spends a lot of the winter competing in World Cup races in Europe. Because of the pandemic, the only American to have competed overseas this winter in skimo was Summit County teen Grace Staberg.
“It feels great to have had a successful race at both,” Smith said. “That will be what I hang my hat on for this season. I think it’s time to go enjoy some spring skiing.”
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