Owl Creek Chase returns, even after moose reroutes course from Buttermilk

Michaela Kenny, left, races to the finish line with Julia Diaz, both Aspen High School students, during the Owl Creek Chase on Sunday at the Aspen Cross Country Center. (Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

There was neither cloud nor moose in sight as skiers raced to the finish of the Owl Creek Chase on Sunday morning at the Aspen Cross Country Center.

The race, which typically takes place on the Owl Creek Trail from Snowmass to Aspen, was rerouted due to moose activity near Buttermilk Ski Area.

“We went from one moose to three moose that we’ve been seeing actively,” said Wesy Armour-Cook, Aspen special events assistant manager. “We have been working with Aspen Skiing Co., Skico mountain managers, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Pitkin County Open Space and Trails monitoring the moose activity daily.”

Instead of risking a surprise appearance from the moose cancelling the race the morning of, they decided to reroute the race entirely to the Aspen side, Armour-Cook said. The new route was 13 kilometers, a bit shorter than the traditional 20-kilometer Owl Creek Trail course.

Organizers for the Owl Creek Chase added a moose to this year’s T-shirts, a play on the animals rerouting this year’s race.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

“We were super bummed, but we really wanted to continue with the race, so we made the call last week. Everyone seems to be enjoying it,” Armour-Cook said.

Moose activity was not the only new aspect of the annual Owl Creek Chase. The format of the race shifted to an enduro format with three timed sections, two of them timed sprints and the third a 1.6-kilometer sprint finish. Racers were ranked based off of their combined time for the three timed sections.

“Enduro racing is a term Aspen is very familiar with, and adding this to the Owl Creek Chase was a good addition,” Armour-Cook said.

Aspen native Chris Keleher, Aspen High School’s longtime cross country coach, said the enduro format is different than what the racers were used to.

“Some people hammered the whole thing and some people skied the enduro parts, then relaxed for a bit and then skied again,” Keleher said.

Aspen High School Nordic skiers Michaela Kenny and Julia Diaz crossed the finish line just seconds apart from each other with smiles on their faces, even after the final 1.6-kilometer sprint. Kenny and Diaz will compete in the CHSAA Nordic Skiing State Championships at the Frisco Nordic Center later this week, and used Sunday’s race for training.

Owl Creek Chase overall winner Egor Gavrilov, center, with runner-up Jason Anderson, left, and third-place finisher Michael Shea after the race on Sunday at the Aspen Cross Country Center.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

“We’re really excited. We both qualified and we’re looking forward to finishing the season strong,” Kenny said.

Diaz and Kenny planned on skiing together and said they kept to the same pace during the first two sections. For the final 1.6-kilometer section, they both sprinted and Diaz just barely came out on top.

“It was fun to mix it up,” Diaz said.

On the men’s side, Egor Gavrilov finished first, Jason Anderson in second and Michael Shea in third. For the women, Phebe Meyers, Valerie Poulin and Laura Puckett-Daniels finished first, second and third.


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