One hour, round trip: Boulder resident wins first A-Basin Grind |

One hour, round trip: Boulder resident wins first A-Basin Grind

ARAPAHOE BASIN – It took Willie Mein less than one hour to inaugurate the A-Basin Grind.

In the first mountaineering race in Basin history – a 2,270-vertical-foot round-

tripper to the top of the Upper East Wall – Boulder’s Mein was the only one of 24 competitors to break the 60-minute barrier. He finished the grueling climb and challenging downhill in 58 minutes, 34 seconds.

An avid Basin skier and recreational marathoner, Mein has been mulling the possibility of a mountaineering event at the ski area for a decade. When mountain managers Alan Henceroth and Marty Gotantas told him that they have been too, and that it was to begin this year, Mein was ready.

“I’ve been talking to myself about a race like this for ten years,” he said. “And Alan Henceroth and those guys were completely on board with it. I think this is actually better than what I had proposed, and it’s even better that I was able to do it. If I was part of organizing it, I wouldn’t have had a chance to actually compete in the event.”

Or run away with it.

Mein beat second-place finisher Dave November (1:06:54) by more than eight minutes. He credited his alpine touring gear, a rental from his sponsor Neptune Mountaineering, with giving him an edge. Most of the competitors were on telemark skis. A few used snowshoes and snowboards.

The top woman, Silverthorne’s Nancy Ray, also used randonee gear. The hard boots and heel lifts made the uphill less taxing, and the fixed heel made things easier on the steep upper section of the descent.

“I just feel better coming down North Pole with my heels locked on, especially in these conditions,” said Ray, who finished in 1:40:34 in the eight-woman field. “And it doesn’t work your calves as much (on the uphill).”

The course started with a steep, groomed climb on High Noon then followed Grizzly Road to the west ski area boundary and to the top of the Lenawee lift. The climb got hairy at the North Pole hiking gate, which accesses the 13,050-foot summit. Then, it was a free-for-all down the Upper East Wall and back to the base area.

Christopher Jones of Bailey was the faster of the two snowboard competitors. A veteran of Breckenridge’s Imperial Challenge, after which the Grind was modeled, Jones used free-heeled snowshoes for the ascent. The snowshoes put him at an advantage on the steeper sections of the climb but at a disadvantage on the flatter sections. He finished in 1:16.16 and said the race was, fittingly, a grind.

“The name of the event was dead on,” Jones said. “I knew it was going to be pretty painful. I was just hoping to be under two hours. I definitely finished quicker than I thought.”

The back of the pack crossed the finish at about two and a half hours.

Henceroth said only one person had registered for the race by Thursday. But the calls rolled in Friday, and by race day, the Basin had a respectable showing for a first-year event.

“We were happy with it,” Henceroth said. “We’re hoping to really grow it from here.”

Jason Starr can be reached at (970) 668-3998 Ext. 231 or at

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