Grand Traverse to finish in Aspen |

Grand Traverse to finish in Aspen

The Grand Traverse is back.

The famed ski mountaineering race from Crested Butte to Aspen — 40 miles of backcountry ups and down — is scheduled to finish Friday at the base of Aspen Mountain.

The ski mountaineers, competing in teams of two, were set for a midnight start in Crested Butte with a morning arrival at Ajax anticipated with fast conditions expected in the backcountry.

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

Last year, the event had to be rerouted to a circular course around Crested Butte because of inordinate avalanche danger along the usual course to Aspen.

But this year, organizers anticipated a full backcountry race from Crested Butte to the finish at the base of the gondola at Aspen Mountain.

The skiing competitors will finish the arduous journey with a descent of Aspen Mountain’s black and double-black diamond runs (Walsh’s, etc.).

Leading competitors include perennial champions Max Taam and John Gaston of Aspen.

The two teamed to win the annual Power of Four Ski Mountaineering Race around Aspen’s four resorts last month. They won that race for the third consecutive year.

Crested Butte’s Bryan Wickenhauser, a co-director of the Grand Traverse, is expected among the leaders again this year with partner Brian Smith.

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