Sports briefs March 22: Grand Traverse skimo update, Simi Hamilton at World Cup ski finals
Grand Traverse skimo race still tentatively a go for next weekend
The annual Grand Traverse ski mountaineering race remains on schedule to take place Saturday, March 30, despite recent avalanche conditions that have made backcountry travel historically unsafe.
“Indications are that avalanche hazard is decreasing,” wrote race director Andrew Arell in an email. “With that being said, we are looking at more weather in the coming days, as well as the later part of next week.”
Entering its 22nd year, the race is organized by Crested Butte Nordic. It begins at midnight in Crested Butte and ends later Saturday morning at the finish line in Aspen. The route includes popular areas such as Upper Brush Creek, Star Pass and Richmond Ridge, on the backside of Aspen Mountain.
Organizers have sent numerous safety teams into the field over the past week to assess the conditions. This included sending their lead avalanche forecaster up in a plane for aerial reconnaissance of the course.
“We are pleased to find that a majority of avalanche paths of concern have flushed naturally through the previous loading cycle,” Arell wrote. “However, we also observed some new areas of concern in the Brush Creek zone that are usually ‘not in play’ this time of year.”
It was a Feb. 16 avalanche in the East Brush Creek area that took the lives of Roaring Fork Valley locals Michael Goerne and Owen Green. The two had reportedly been training for the Grand Traverse.
Organizers plan to send more safety teams into the field this coming week. A final decision on the race likely won’t be made until closer to race day. In play is the possibility of turning the race into a “reverse,” with the start and finish both being in Crested Butte. This has happened twice in the past three years (2016, 2018) due to conditions.
Aspen’s Hamilton 13th in sprint at World Cup finals in Quebec
The World Cup finals got underway for the cross-country skiers on Friday in Quebec, Canada. U.S. Ski Team veteran and Aspen native Simi Hamilton competed in the men’s sprint final, where he finished 13th to lead the Americans. Norwegian superstar Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo took the win.
Hamilton finished the World Cup season 17th in the sprint standings for the second consecutive year. Klaebo was first, his third consecutive globe.
Sweden’s Stina Nilsson won the women’s race, and also took home the season-long sprint globe. Three Americans finished in the top 10 of Friday’s race: Sadie Bjornsen was sixth, Sophie Caldwell was seventh and Olympic gold medalist Jessica Diggins was 10th.
Basalt’s Hailey Swirbul, a U.S. Ski Team rookie, got only her second career World Cup start on Friday, finishing 53rd in the sprint. Her other World Cup event was a Jan. 12 sprint in Germany, where she finished 41st.
Racing continues Saturday with the classic mass start races and concludes Sunday with the freestyle pursuit races.
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Maytham is one of a handful of local skiers to have joined Peter Olenick’s P.R.O. team, headed by the Carbondale skiing icon. That group has spent a lot of time this year holed up at Copper Mountain, and Maytham believes that is paying off.