Grand Traverse challenges ski mountaineers |

Grand Traverse challenges ski mountaineers

Let’s race.

From Crested Butte to Aspen.

Forty miles of backcountry skiing, with all the affiliated ups and downs.

And let’s leave at midnight and race through the night with headlamps.

It’s back.

The annual Elk Mountains Grand Traverse is back for the 2016 edition — starting Friday at midnight in Crested Butte.

The ski mountaineer racers, competing in teams of two, will finish at the base of Aspen Mountain early Saturday morning.

The skiers start at midnight to avoid avalanche conditions along the route that increase during daylight hours.

The course itself will take into consideration the backcountry conditions, with sections of the course often redirected.

This year, a full race is expected with the Saturday morning finish in Aspen.

Per usual, the Aspen Mountain finishing section of the race will take the skiers down the double-black diamonds at Ajax, including Walsh’s before the finish line at the base of the gondola.

Familiar names in the skimo racing scene won the 2015 Elk Mountains Grand Traverse. Veteran racer Scott Simmons of Durango teamed with upstart Paul Hamilton, now a Carbondale resident, to win the Crested Butte-to-Aspen challenge.

They skied across the finish line at 6:45 a.m. last year after the midnight start.

To be exact, they finished in 6 hours, 44 minutes and 35 seconds — the fastest time ever in the 40-mile Grand Traverse.

The two recently finished second to Aspen’s John Gaston and Max Taam in the 2016 Power of Four Ski Mountaineering Race.

J. Marshall Thomson of Crested Butte and Rob Krar of Flagstaff, Arizona, completed the trip from Crested Butte in 6:54:44, just 10 minutes behind the winners.

Third place last year went to the veteran Crested Butte/Gunnison skimo duo of Billy Laird/Jon Brown.

Race organizer Bryan Wickenhauser and partner Brian Smith, also from Crested Butte, finished fourth.

The winners in the women’s division last year, finishing in 8 hours, 17 minutes, were Crested Butte’s Stevie Kremer and Yari Kirkland.

Kremer recently teamed with Carbondale’s Lindsay Plant to win the Power of Four ski race for the second consecutive year.

There will be a finish venue with vendor booths at the finish area at the base of the gondola Saturday.

For more information, visit

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