Imperial Challenge competitors ascend Breckenridge on Saturday |

Imperial Challenge competitors ascend Breckenridge on Saturday

summit daily news
Summit County, Colorado
Summit Daily/Mark Fox

It is whatever you want to make of it, co-organizer Jeff Westcott said.

And that may be the only way to describe the annual Imperial Challenge in Breckenridge – or at least, that’s the short way of depicting it.

Here’s the long version: Participants begin with a bike ride from the Breckenridge Recreation Center, through backroads up Peak 7 to The Bergenhof at the base of Peak 8. Then, with a complete disregard for the luxury of chairlifts, the racers ascend the mountain on skins, snowshoes, cross-country skis, splitboards or any other non-motorized, non-mechanized equipment. Once at the top, racers ski or board back down – carrying all their equipment, of course – to the finish line.

The event is a triathlon of sorts, although those who participate would simply describe it as a whole lot of fun.

“It’s absolutely the most fun rite of spring there is in the High Country,” Westcott said. “It’s become a tradition and a pretty good test of fitness.”

In Saturday’s 17th or 18th running of the race (no one’s quite sure on the actual number), people will get that test in an event that bridges two of Summit County’s passions and seasons: biking and skiing.

Despite the grueling description of the course, Westcott said that “most people” are just out competing for fun and not worrying about time.

“It’s pretty laid-back,” he said. “You can go at your own pace and just race against yourself; it’s a challenge against yourself.”

In fact, there are three options for the race: the citizens course, expert course and team course.

The citizens course has just a 900-foot vertical climb on the “ascend” section of the race, while the expert course is 2,000 vertical feet of climbing. Anyone 16 years or younger must compete in the citizens category.

In the team category, racers complete half the ascent while tagging off to their teammate at the top of the T-Bar.

The event is co-operated by Westcott’s Maverick Sports Promotions and Sandy Metzger, the team manager and program director for the U.S. Alpine Disabled Ski Team. For the past few years, the Imperial Challenge also serves as a fundraiser for No Excuses Unlimited, which supports Metzger’s team.

Registration is still open, either at the Breck rec center or at Mountain Outfitters (on Ridge St. in Breck) on Friday from 5-7 p.m. Those that preregistered can pick up their packets at Mountain Outfitters at the same time on Friday. The rec center registration is available up until the morning of the race.

The race starts at 10 a.m.

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