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Teens gear up for 24 Hours of Sunlight

Joelle Milholm
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Students from the Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale head out on a training and conditioning run near Sunlight Mountain Tuesday afternoon. (Kelley Cox/Post Independent)
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” One by one they piled out of the Colorado Rocky Mountain School bus at a parking lot near Williams Peak, next to Sunlight Mountain Resort.

Slapping skins on their skis or splitboards and strapping on backpacks and beacons, the 12 high schoolers and their five coaches disappeared into the trees.

It’s all part of the training for the CRMS Off-Piste teams, but this journey has a particular focus ” to get ready for Saturday and Sunday’s 24 Hours of Sunlight race.

The Carbondale private school will enter three teams of five, which almost equals 1 percent of the school’s student body, in the third annual marathon ski/snowboard/skin/snowshoe race, which will begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Sunlight, outside of Glenwood Springs.

“I think we will be ready on Saturday ” after (trainings) today, Wednesday and Thursday,” said Off-Piste coach Darryl Fuller. “I think we are 90 percent right now.”

The trio of teams, which consists of two skiing squads and one snowboard/splitboard team, make up a small fraction of the 77 teams or individuals who had signed up for the event as of Tuesday. Like all the teams or brave soloists, CRMS has been training for a long time to prepare for this weekend.

“We come up here, we ski Snowmass, hike the Highland Bowl, we did COSMIC (Colorado Ski Mountaineering Cup), we do nordic skiing,” said Nick Malik, a junior in his first year at CRMS.

Competing in COSMIC, a shorter backcountry race at Sunlight on Jan. 20, gave the CRMS snow athletes a taste of what this weekend has to offer. While 24 Hours of Sunlight takes place on groomed trails, involving skinning or snowshoeing up and then skiing or snowshoeing down a 1-mile, 1,898-foot-vertical course, it involves the some of the same concepts that COSMIC did. (Except, participants go up and down for 24 straight hours in this weekend’s event.)

“It gives you an idea of what’s ahead,” said CRMS junior Ellie McKinley.

McKinley is a captain of one of CRMS’ ski teams and, having grown up in Glenwood Springs, has spent a lot of time on the slopes at Sunlight, though not for 24 consecutive hours.

“I am a little excited, a little nervous. I am excited for afterward, when I can say I did it,” she said on Tuesday.

The CRMS squads and their coaches will be using a slopeside condo for base camp, where they will rotate in and out and see how many laps they can track. They are still deciding on strategies and are still working out their goals.

“Mostly we’re just going to have fun,” Fuller said. “We’ll set some individual goals. There will be challenges like the prolonged racing, figuring the rotations and the potential of racing uphill and getting up in the middle of the night’s also going to present a challenge.”

The teams will be taking it easy on Friday and will try to get a good night’s sleep before setting out on a very long day on Saturday.


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