Above and beyond: Summit County’s athletic events aren’t for the timid | SummitDaily.com

Above and beyond: Summit County’s athletic events aren’t for the timid

SUMMIT COUNTY – Many people compete sheerly for bragging rights, but throughout the years in Summit County, athletic events have always had a bit of an extra twist.

Marathons, bike races, ski races and snowboard competitions are common, but in Summit County, locals have always found a way to create hybrid winter events, many of which have gained notoriety throughout the years.

Although last weekend’s Baldy Blast was cancelled due to avalanche danger, a handful of locals went ahead and did it anyway because they were familiar with the terrain and had their hearts set on it.

“That’s what it’s all about – getting people interested in having fun as opposed to winning and go enjoy nature with a little challenge,” said Kim O’Brien of Red, White and Blue Fire Department, who, along with the late Chris Ethridge, brainstormed the event, which allows participants to use whatever means possible to cover 22 kilometers of backcountry woods and powder fields on Baldy Mountain in Breckenridge. O’Brien and Ethridge worked together at the fire department until Ethridge was killed by a car while he was cycling near Boulder in October 2001.

“We did the Blast (Saturday) in Chris’ spirit,” O’Brien said. “It doesn’t matter how you do it – skis, snowshoe, whatever. As long as you’re outside challenging yourself.”

Other local athletic events that have gained notoriety in the last 15 years include the Imperial Challenge, which takes place for the 12th time April 12 in Breckenridge, and the Arapahoe Basin Enduro, which will mark its 15th year April 16 at the Basin.

The Imperial Challenge consists of a 6.3-mile mountain bike ride from the town of Breckenridge up to the Peak 8 base area of Breckenridge Ski Resort, a skin or snowshoe ascent of nearly 3,000 feet to the Imperial Bowl summit and a ski or ride back to the base area.

“In the old days, you had to bike carrying all your gear,” said Mark Taylor of Great Adventure Sports in Breckenridge, which took over the Imperial Challenge from the ski area a few years ago.

“It’s hardcore mountain athletes primarily that compete, but you get Front Rangers coming up more and more just to see if they can do it. If you’re not a mountain kind of person, you could be an amazing athlete and do the Imperial and get blown out. You have top runner guys coming up from lower elevation, but it’s a full-on power hike.”

If you’re not a mountain kind of person, you might have trouble with any of the famous local events.

The Enduro is a team event at Arapahoe Basin, which, according to A-Basin officials, was brainstormed 15 years ago by two men named “Juice” and “Rodan.” Now, the event features 35 well-established teams of skiers and snowboarders trying to ski as many runs as they can in 10 hours. The record stands at 67 runs.

“The Enduro is pure bragging rights,” said A-Basin’s Marty Gotantas, Enduro organizer. “It all fits in with the scene at the Basin. Among the locals, it’s who’s the bad boy on the hill, who can ski the fastest, who can ski the longest. Here’s the event to prove it.”

The Basin is also responsible for the Bikes and Bumps event, which kicks off for its 14th year April 5 and sends racers down the Ramrod mogul run on their mountain bikes.

New events are also in the works this season. The E Chair Challenge at Breckenridge is similar to the Enduro. Teams of two see how many runs they can put down on the double-diamond E Chair terrain in seven hours. Breckenridge wanted to kick off the inaugural event last season but had to cancel it due to poor snow conditions. This year’s E Chair Challenge takes place April 14.

In turn, the Basin is holding the first annual A-Basin Grind May 3, which will give participants their choice of equipment with which to hike or skin to the top of the North Pole, then make their way down double diamond terrain on the East Wall.

“It’s for a lot of people,” said A-Basin mountain manager Alan Henceroth. “All the Enduro crowd will probably be there, and hopefully a lot of Front Range people into those intense athletic events. I think there’s a growth of interest in people wanting to do more adventurous, different things. Some people just want to see if they can do it.”

For more information about the Imperial Challenge, which takes place April 12 in Breckenridge, call Great Adventure Sports at (970) 453-0333.

For information on Bikes and Bumps April 5, the Enduro April 16, or the A-Basin Grind May 3, call A-Basin Ski School at (970) 496-7007.

For information on the E Chair Challenge April 14 at Breckenridge, call Avalanche Sports (970) 453-1461.

Shauna Farnell can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at sfarnell@summitdaily.com.

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