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While you sleep, they ski

Aspen Times Staff Report

While most of us are safe and warm in our beds tonight, more than 100 backcountry skiers will head off into the wilderness during the second annual Elk Mountain Grand Traverse.

Participants in the extreme endurance race will leave the starting gate near Crested Butte at midnight, bound for the base of Aspen Mountain.

The two-person teams will first ski 14 miles to the first checkpoint at Friends Hut. From there, racers will climb over Star Pass and Taylor Pass – a total elevation gain of some 12,000 feet to that point.

The racers then ascend to Gold Hill and the Barnard Hut to the second checkpoint. The final leg is up Richmond Ridge to the top of Aspen Mountain and then down to the finish line next to the gondola.

Last year, Aspenites Pierre Wille and Travis Moore brought the title trophy to Aspen with a winning time of 8 hours, 31 minutes and 50 seconds.

“We were at the Sundeck at 8 a.m., setting up, expecting the racers to come in at 10 a.m.,” said John Oates of Woody Creek, who put together a short film of last year’s race. “And all of a sudden, Travis Moore and Pierre Wille … skated up from the backside of Aspen Mountain.”

“They took everybody by surprise,” Oates said. “They actually arrived before the finish line was set up. Luckily, there was someone at the finish line with a watch.”

The second-place finishers – Dave Penny of Crested Butte and Jeff Haulenbaugh of Paonia – came in about 40 minutes later. The first women’s pair – Deb Curtis of Aspen and Ginny Bullock of Crested Butte – crossed the finish line in 13 hours, 19 minutes and 12 seconds. The remainder of the 49-team field came in throughout the day.

This year, about 50 teams are registered for the event, according to race organizer Jan Runge of Crested Butte.

“The registrations are just pouring in, we’re filling up pretty fast,” Runge said. She said the maximum number of teams allowable is 75, or 150 people.

Oates’ film will air at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Aspen Club Lodge. Admission is $5.

“It’s a half-hour television program and that was done for Outdoor Life Network, so it has their format,” Oates said. “It’s basically the story of the race.”

For more information and/or a registration form, stop by Ute Mountaineer in Aspen or call Runge at 970-349-1019.


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