Smith, Kelly win Grand Traverse ski mountaineering race; Breck’s LaRochelle, Zander take women’s race
The Aspen Times
Only a couple weeks ago, Cam Smith and Rory Kelly were representing the United States at the ski mountaineering world championships in Switzerland. As incredible as that may have been, getting to come home and compete in one’s own mountains is equally as fulfilling.
“It’s different in a lot of ways, for sure,” Smith said. “It’s more of a community event and a celebration of spring, instead of people racing for their careers.”
Racing together for the first time, the two partnered to win Saturday’s 22nd annual Grand Traverse ski mountaineering race with a time of 7 hours, 22 minutes, 30.8 seconds. The roughly 40-mile race began at midnight in Crested Butte and ended later Saturday at the base of Aspen Mountain.
It was only the third time in six years the race — organized by Crested Butte Nordic — actually finished in Aspen because of conditions. In 2014, 2016 and 2018, the race was a “reverse,” where it began and ended in Crested Butte. Prior to 2014, the Grand Traverse had only been a reverse once, way back in 1999, its second year of existence.
Smith, who lives in Crested Butte, won last year’s reverse alongside Carbondale’s Sean Van Horn. While the reverse option provides him with some convenient luxuries, having the chance to win the race in its true and complete form was nice.
1. Cam Smith/Rory Kelly, 7:22:30.8
2. Billy Laird/Jon Brown, 7:32:04.3
3. Eric Sullivan/Jack Linehan, 7:36:03.2
1. Nikki LaRochelle/Kate Zander, 8:24:14.3
2. Lyndsay Meyer/Michela Adrian, 9:21:25.8
3. Hannah Smith/Emma Lohr, 10:07:44.8
1. Ross Herr/Jill Seager, 7:57:52.8
2. Dan Loftus/Stevie Kremer, 8:41:37.4
3. Ben Corwin/Laura Stamp, 9:37:54.3
“It is logistically easier just to stay at home, because I can just go back into my bed in the afternoon,” Smith joked of the reverse. “But it’s a lot more fun to finish in Aspen because that’s what we’re all here for. What makes the Grand Traverse cool is it’s a unique traverse. It’s not necessarily the coolest course or the coolest race and you can’t even see it because it’s all in the dark, but what makes it really unique is you get to go from one mountain town to the other.”
Smith had originally planned to compete alongside noted runner and ski mountaineer Mike Foote of Montana but only a few days prior to the race had to bring in a backup in Kelly after Foote was forced to pull out because of injury. While Kelly currently calls Boulder home, he grew up in the Roaring Fork Valley and still has family in the area.
“It’s funny. I was a snowboarder growing up, so it wasn’t really on my radar,” Kelly said of the Grand Traverse. “Both of us were talking about it earlier — it’s a race that got both us into skimo. It’s the classic you hear about.”
The pair won Saturday’s race by about 10 minutes over Crested Butte’s Billy Laird and Jon Brown. Laird, alongside Brian Smith, won the 2017 Audi Power of Four skimo race, while Brown also was a member of the U.S. national team this season. Finishing third in 7:36:03.2 was Aspen’s Eric Sullivan and Jack Linehan. Linehan was on the national team this winter as well.
“You never really feel super comfortable,” Kelly said. “You always have that fear that someone is about to sneak up on you. After maybe the first hour, there were still a bunch of us together. It took a while to get that separation.”
Absent from this year’s race were Aspen’s John Gaston and Max Taam, who set the Crested Butte to Aspen course record back in 2017 (6:37:38.6). Both are veteran members of the U.S. national team and won Aspen Skiing Co.’s Power of Four skimo race, a race they’ve long dominated, earlier in March.
Winning the women’s side of things Saturday at the Grand Traverse were Breckenridge’s Nikki LaRochelle and Kate Zander, who, yes, are members of the U.S. national team. LaRochelle won the Power of Four earlier this month alongside Aspen’s Jessie Young.
LaRochelle and Zander finished in 8:24:14.3, nearly an hour in front of second-place finishers Lyndsay Meyer of Aspen and Montana’s Michela Adrian. In third among women were Crested Butte’s Hannah Smith and Emma Lohr.
Ross Herr and Jill Seager won the co-ed race by about 45 minutes over Crested Butte’s Stevie Kremer and Dan Loftus. Denver’s Ben Corwin and Laura Stamp were third.
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