“This is the best night of the year,” second-time Grand Traverse racer Adam Farro yells. The bus from downtown Crested Butte, Colo. to the resort is equally packed with afroed and bedazzled Soultrain partygoers and softshell-clad, skinny-ski toting Elk Mountain Grand Traverse racers. And while this year’s race course, which typically runs 40 miles from Crested Butte to Aspen, has been altered due high avalanche danger, the energy in Crested Butte is electric.
This afternoon, race organizers debriefed the 200, two-person teams on the 17th-annual skiing of the Grand Traverse. With more than a foot of new snow in the Elk Mountains, organizers chose to “reverse” the route due to avalanche concerns, sending racers from Crested Butte Mountain Resort to the Friend’s Hut, then rerouting them back to CB. The “Grand Reverse,” they said, will feature more vertical over a slightly longer distance than the traditional route. This is the third time the race has been reversed.
“It’s a bit unfortunate,” says first-time racer Patrick Fink, “But that just means we’re going to have to come back and do it again.”
A half hour before the midnight sendoff, the mountainside staging area smells of sugary Five-Hour Energy shots. Racers wear a melting pot of gear, from full skimo spandex to baggy hardshell bibs, ice-climbing face shields to neon sunglasses. “Don’t let the speedsuit fool you,” says Taylor Schefstrom, Fink’s partner. “We’re just going to try to be steady and just keep going.”
Minutes before midnight, racers stream toward the starting line as the hardcores warm up on the race’s first pitch. The funkadelic sounds of the Soultrain party thump on in the background. “It’s a great adventure,” says second-time racer Eric Jacobson, who’s wearing a throwback, red, white and blue Nordic race suit. “It’s pretty hard, definitely a test, but it’s also super fun.”