Brian Smith and Bryan Wickenhauser won the 13th annual Elk Mountains Grand Traverse on Saturday in 6 hours 28 minutes and change. This backcountry ski race normally runs from Crested Butte to Aspen, but more than a foot of new snow and high winds forced organizers to scrub plans for the midnight start and high-altitude (over 12,000 feet) traverse to Aspen. Instead, racers did the “Grand Reverse,” starting at 6 a.m. and following a complex course up to the Friends Hut and back, doing several loops to add mileage, and finishing at the ski resort.
The course was so unfamiliar, in fact, that two of the leading teams took a wrong turn with about an hour left in the race and lost their podium finishes. In the final results, second place for the men went to Ethan Passant and Travis Scheefer, and the third spot went to Jake Jones and Pat O’Neill. Mark Smiley and Janelle Smiley won the co-ed division in 7:26:02. The fastest women’s team was Emma Catmur and Emma Lohr, in 9:05:45.
The Grand Reverse distance was approximately 38 miles and 7,000 feet of vertical, which is comparable to the usual course, but this year was much quicker. Top finishers glided in 1.5 to 3 hours faster than the winning times in recent years.
We asked winning skier Bryan Wickenhauser for his impressions.
Mojo: Like everyone, you must have been disappointed that conditions caused the course change. What did you think of the new course? Did it play any more to you and your partner’s strengths? … Continue Reading