Summit County skimo star Grace Staberg conquers quest across European Alps

Cody Jones
Summit Daily
Summit's Grace Staberg, left, and Leah Lange compete in the 2022 Transalpine Run earlier in September. The pair finished fourth overall in the women's team rankings after fighting through health issues.
Courtesy photo

Hip issues, stomach ulcers and asthma attacks are all things that could stop most average humans from walking across the street, but for Summit’s Grace Staberg, those issues she encountered were just another pebble on the trail while competing in the 2022 Transalpine Run. 

It is no secret that Staberg has a knack for endurance sports. The Summit High School class of 2020 alumna is a Dynafit-sponsored professional ski mountaineering athlete in the winter and a trail runner in the summer who likes to keep busy by climbing steep mountains and exploring challenging trails. 

Instead of spending the summer trekking along the trails in Summit County, Staberg chose to spend her summer in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France. 

“I was there for almost the entire summer,” Staberg said. “The reason I had chosen to stay in Europe for the summer was because, eventually, I would like to apply for citizenship. I have had my residence permit for a few years now, but I definitely felt like if I was going to become a citizen, I should get a little bit more settled.”

While fitting in a great block of training on the trails that surround Chamonix, Staberg also focused on throwing down some roots in France by taking classes and working at a local chalet. 

Throughout the summer, Staberg also set her eyes on preparing for her first-ever Dynafit Transalpine Run, which occured Sept. 3-10. The event is an eight-stage race that travels over the European Alps in Germany, Austria and Italy. 

The race mainly features talented trail runners from across Europe and usually covers nearly 188 miles and gains over 56,000 feet of vertical climbing. This year the race was a bit shorter due to weather. The race consisted of about 160 miles of distance and 50,000 feet of climbing.  

Despite the changes, the race is still not for the faint of heart. When climbing over the course, racers were tested both physically and mentally on the quad-crushing climbs and descents.

Staberg competed extremely well with her teammate, Leah Lange.

Over the eight-day race, Staberg and Lange faced many challenges between the two of them. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges the team faced was on day three when Staberg and Lange tried to power through hip issues.

The hip issues grew so severe during the stage that the team had to walk the descents, adding more time on their feet very early on in the race.

Despite also facing stomach ulcers and asthma attacks, Staberg views the challenges the team faced with a positive mindset because of the experience the race provided her. 

“Even the moments that were really tough, I have positive memories from,” Staberg said. 

Staberg and Lange were pulled from the painful circumstances they were in by the beautiful scenery and community that was present around them. 

Grace Staberg, right, congratulates her teammate Leah Lange after finishing a stage of the Transalpine Run earlier in September. Staberg and Lange faced many challenges during the multi-day endurance race but enjoyed the race community and the views the race provided.
Courtesy photo

“Almost every day there was at least one view that would’ve been a highlight,” Staberg recalled. “The coolest thing was probably that, because of some of the issues we were having, we couldn’t move as fast on some of the descents, which allowed us to run with 20 times more people than we would’ve ran with. We met so many cool people throughout the week.”

One person that stood out to Staberg was an 80-something-year-old man who has competed in over 250 ultramarathon races. The man is so fast that many of his younger competitors have trouble keeping up with him even at his tender age. 

“One of the highlights, for sure, was how many people we got to meet and how cool all of the characters in the race were,” Staberg said. 

After struggling over the first three stages, the duo had its best  performance of the week on Day 4 when the team placed first in the uphill time trial.

The duo finished the 4.5-mile stage with a total time of 1 hour, 45 minutes and 59.5 seconds. Staberg was the first to cross the line with a time of 49:38.1, while Lange finished with a time of 56:21.4.

Aside from Day 4 of the race, Staberg and Lange finished third or fourth overall in the the remaining days to place fourth overall in the women’s team rankings at the conclusion of the race. 

“I loved the race. I am already excited to hopefully go back another year,” Staberg said. “We didn’t feel as good as we may have hoped, but we finished fourth overall. I think going into it we were hoping for maybe a little bit better, but it was an amazingly fun week, regardless.”

After racing in the Pikes Peak Ascent on Sept. 17, Staberg now is turning her focus to ski mountaineering and will eventually return to Europe to start her 2022 ski mountaineering racing season.