Grand Traverse kicks off Friday night at alternate location |

Grand Traverse kicks off Friday night at alternate location

Mark Fox/The Aspen Times

The Elk Mountains Grand Traverse – the famed backcountry ski race from Crested Butte to Aspen – kicks off its 10th running at midnight Friday when 125 two-person teams set off from the base of Crested Butte Mountain. The top racers among the field should arrive at the Aspen Gondola plaza early Saturday morning, while the rest of the field – at least those who finish – won’t stop coming in until 4 in the afternoon.

Last year’s overall winners, Jon Brown and Brian Smith, both of Gunnison, completed the 40-mile course in 7 hours, 52 minutes and 30 seconds in what was the closest finish in the race’s history.Crested Butte’s Dave Penney was the first racer across the finish line but could only watch as Brown and Smith crossed five seconds ahead of his partner, Eric Sullivan.

Race organizers have moved the race’s start from the Crested Butte Community School to the base of the mountain because of deteriorating snow conditions.The race’s website said that the course is in a stage of variable spring conditions, although this week’s precipitation was expected to help cover up thin snow and windblown patches.

The traverse follows mail routes that connected the two mining towns back in the 1880s. Racers climb up and over Crested Butte Mountain and exit at the bottom of the East River lift, then cross the East River Valley toward Brush Creek before climbing over two mountain passes. The race’s website said that slots are still available for competitors looking for a partner or a team slot.For more information on the race, visit the website at

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