Aspen’s Gaston, Taam repeat in Power of Four |

Aspen’s Gaston, Taam repeat in Power of Four

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times
Aspen's Max Taam (right) congratulates partner John Gaston after the duo won the 2016 Power of Four ski mountaineering race in record time Saturday.
Jeremy Wallace / The Aspen Times |

Unbeatable, still.

Aspen’s John Gaston and Max Taam prevailed once again in the sixth annual Power of Four ski mountaineering race on Saturday morning.

The dynamic duo won the 24-mile challenge that included sections of all four ski areas in the Aspen-Snowmass area, setting a course record in the process.

Gaston and Taam won the ski mountaineering race, including 10,000 vertical feet of climbing, in 4 hours, 40 minutes, 12 seconds, breaking their own course record by some 12 minutes.

The women’s division of the 2016 Power of Four also featured repeat winners — Lindsay Plant of Carbondale and Stevie Kremer of Crested Butte.

Sporting her famed pearl earrings, Kremer returned to the top of the podium Aspen — a place where she is a familiar figure.

Kremer is a six-time winner of the Golden Leaf Half-Marathon, the summer race from Snowmass to Aspen.

She’s also a winner of the Aspen Backcountry Marathon as well as the Grand Traverse ski mountaineering race from Crested Butte to Aspen.

“You know I can’t race without my pearls,” Kremer said after she and Plant skied into the finish area at the base of Aspen Mountain. “That’s like racing without skis or without Lindsay.”

Kremer credited her teammate Plant for their effort that broke the women’s course record for the winter Power of Four. They finished in 5:45.07.

“Lindsay was awesome, per usual,” Kremer said. “It was way faster this year. Everything was 100 times better than last year.”

No wind.

That was the biggest difference, she said.

“The weather was awesome … we had exactly the same teamwork as last year,” Kremer said. “I wouldn’t have changed anything.”

She said once again the course was very well marked for the race sponsored by the Aspen Skiing Co. and Audi.

Gaston, too, credited his partner Taam for their record-setting performance.

“You can always count on Max to race smart. He’s the voice of reason,” Gaston said of his partner, a longtime ski patroller at Aspen Mountain.

Gaston said Taam had a reminder for him at the top of Aspen Mountain: “Max said we can’t win it on the final descent, but we can lose it if we’re stupid.”

The duo had overtaken early leaders Scott Simmons of Durango and Paul Hamilton of Carbondale on the climb up to Highland Bowl.

“It all starts with the bowl for me,” Gaston said.”We knew Scott and Paul are really high-level athletes. We knew they would take it out really hard.”

They did.

But the patience of Gaston and Taam paid as they bolted up Highland Bowl.

“We wanted to … drop into the bowl from the top before they got there so they couldn’t follow our tracks,” Gaston said.

Once into the bowl, he said they made their fastest ski-mo descent there ever.

They held their lead all the way to the finish.

“We’re good about reminders … food, water,” Gaston said, adding that Saturday’s warmer temperatures made hydration critical. “And we’re very similar in downhill on our skis. That helps a lot.”

Simmons and Hamilton, who won the Aspen Backcountry Marathon last year, finished second Saturday in 4:54.13. .

Max has incredible endurance

The team of Scott Simmons and Paul Hamilton, who led early in the race, finished second on Saturday in 4:54.13.

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