Summit locals test endurance at The Grand Traverse ski race

Participants at The Grand Traverse ski race on Saturday, April 2, wait for the start of the 25th annual race. Summit County had several athletes compete in the 40-mile race, including the LaRochelles, who placed first in the co-ed division and fourth overall.
Uphill Athlete/Courtesy photo

Over the weekend, several Summit County locals competed in The Grand Traverse ski race, climbing over 6,800 vertical feet during the 40-mile trek across the Elk Mountain range from Crested Butte to Aspen.

This year’s field was made up of 250 teams of two. Competitors started lining up in the late hours of Saturday, April 2, and started their journey towards Aspen at midnight in order to mitigate any possible avalanche danger.

“This race is a classic Colorado event, and this year was the 25th edition,” Breckenridge local Nikki LaRochelle said in an email. “I love our crazy mountain culture.”

LaRochelle took part in the action herself, racing with her husband, Brad.

The duo had an impressive race. They picked up a first place finish in the co-ed category and a fourth place finish overall with a time of 7 hours, 56 minutes, 25.1 seconds.

What made the LaRochelles’ performance even more impressive was the fact that the duo was only beat out by teams significantly younger than them. The LaRochelles were in the 36-45 average age division, but the three teams that beat them in the overall standings were all in the 26-35 average age division.

Following the LaRochelle team was another Summit local, John O’Neil, who was a member of the Cinderella Story Strikes Back Again team.

O’Neil helped his team to a fifth place overall finish and a fourth place finish in the 26-35 age division, crossing the finish line in a time of 8:10:19.3.

Frisco resident Eugenio Perez raced for team Burros, Birras y Barbas, helping his teammates to a 31st overall placing and sixth in the 36-45 average age division. Perez’s team finished in a time of 10:37.17.

The race was topped by longtime Aspen local and professional ski mountaineering athlete, John Gaston, and his partner Cam Smith. The duo finished the course in a time of 6:13:15.4, nearly 40 minutes ahead of second place.

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