The Osprey Brand Team, a group of 10 ambassadors reporting from the field at consumer outdoor events across the country as well as reporting on adventures brings you Durango native Jim Philpott’s first entry recounting his participation in the recent Crested Butte-to-Aspen “Grand Traverse” ski race. Enjoy the read…
The Elk Mountain Grand Traverse is a backcountry touring race from Crested Butte, CO through the Gunnison National Forest over to Aspen. The race starts at midnight in the town of Crested Butte and finishes with a scary long groomer (because we were on Nordic gear) down Aspen Mountain to the finish at the base of the Gondola.
The week before the race this year the course received about 30″ of new snow and was getting hammered with high winds so the conditions were expected to be extremely variable. On race day though the weather cleared and with the exception of single digit temperatures and high winds in the early morning the weather was perfect! We even got a little powder skiing in off the back side of Star Pass.
The race is a team event with two people per team; this is mostly for safety reasons as there aren’t many rescue options once the race is underway. Other than endurance, a few screws loose “upstairs,” and a good strong team mate (mine being long time friend and Durango native Todd McGrath), gear selection is the most important aspect.
For my pack I chose my Variant 37 because I could fit whatever gear I needed and whatever gear was required without compromising comfort and versatility…I couldn’t be happier with the Variant for the purposes I’ve tested it with so far (primarily backcountry skiing trips). For skis and boots I chose to run nordic skis and skate boots with some small “kicker” skins for the big hills…of which there are a ton!
We ended up coming in 67th out of 149 racers, not bad for our first go-round, and we had a blast. You can find the rest of the race results here. Enjoy the photos and leave me a comment if you’ve ever done this race and what your experience was like. I’d love to hear other perspectives on the Grand Traverse!
For more information check out Jim’s bio page here.