Friends, co-workers remember avalanche victim Owen Green at Grand Traverse aid station with banana bread
There aren’t many views better than those found at the top of Aspen Mountain, making it an ideal spot to eat banana bread.
At least Owen Green would have thought so.
The 27-year-old who lived in Aspen was one of two — the other being his friend and race partner Michael Goerne, 37, of Carbondale — who died in a Feb. 16 avalanche while training for the Grand Traverse ski mountaineering race. That race, which takes athletes on a 40-mile ski trek from the start in Crested Butte to the finish in Aspen, took place Saturday.
At the final checkpoint atop Aspen Mountain, friends and co-workers of Green’s were prepared to offer athletes “banana bread with a view.”
“We decided we wanted to do something special up there,” said Erin Young, who worked with Green at Snowmass Tourism. “We decided it would be a fun way to get people involved so the rest of our office could come out and join.”
Here’s the story, as told by Young. At one point, Green went on a short road trip and stopped to get snacks along the way. He opted for banana bread, of all things, and off he went. Later, before reaching the final destination (believed to have been Crested Butte), a friend noticed the uneaten banana bread on the car’s dashboard and inquired about it.
“He was like, ‘Well, you can’t eat banana bread without a good view,’ and that’s where the ‘banana bread with a view’ started,” Young said. “So they started this trend and since his passing they have really ramped it up and made a big play out of it.”
The checkpoint crew on Ajax had signs with that same message Saturday and had at least 10 loaves of banana bread to give to athletes as they approached the end of the hours-long race. On top of this gesture, the official race bibs had both Green’s and Goerne’s names on them and there was a moment of silence in their honor during Friday’s racer meeting in Crested Butte.
With historically bad avalanche conditions in Colorado this past month, there was concern about this year’s Grand Traverse happening at all. It has never been canceled in its 22 years, but the deaths of Goerne and Green made things uneasy.
However, conditions came together in time and Crested Butte’s Cam Smith, who won the race alongside Rory Kelly, said “it ended up being close to perfect.”
“A lot of the snow-safety team that work for the race are friends of ours from just around Crested Butte, and I know and have all the trust in the world in them,” Smith said. “So if they say it’s good to go, then I’m fully ready to accept their decision.”
Prior to pulling out in January, Young had planned on competing in this year’s race and had spent some time training with Green, where she said they had become friends and not just co-workers. Leading up to the accident, Young said Green spent a lot of time talking about the Grand Traverse.
“Hearing Owen talk about how excited they were to race and how serious they were taking the training — they were so into it. Everything about it: the gear and the training and the skins and all that. It was cool to do something there,” Young said. “I don’t know if it’s closure, necessarily, but just having all of the racers bring their names across the finish line was really such a cool way to do it and keep it on everyone’s minds.”
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The planned NorAm Cup Finals, previously scheduled from April 5-16 at Highlands, have been canceled and will be replaced with the U.S. Alpine Championships starting the same date.