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October 20, 2004
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Elk Mountain Grand Traverse Challenges Back Country Athletic Skills & Smarts GUNNISON-CRESTED BUTTE, COLORADO (October 20, 2004) – Crested Butte’s Elk Mountain Grand Traverse is a one-of-a-kind event in the United States. The backcountry ski race is a test of endurance and smarts, following the mail routes that connected the Colorado mining towns of Crested Butte and Aspen in the 1880s and requiring avalanche awareness, backcountry athleticism, winter camping knowledge and map reading skills all wrapped in one.

“The Grand Traverse is not a Nordic or downhill race, but instead tests skiers overall skills and goes from town-to-town, covering 40 miles of rugged trails in the Elk Mountains. When Grand Traverse began eight years ago, it was fashioned after similar events in Europe that connect various villages,” says Jan Runge, race organizer.

At the stroke of midnight on April 1, 2005, approximately 240 racers (120 teams of two racers each) will depart from the traditional starting line at the Crested Butte Community School in town, catch the old Upper Loop Trail, skirt along Hunter Hill Road and drop into the T-bar hill at Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Mt. Crested Butte. Cheering crowds, torches and a firework display will greet the racers as they pass through the base area just below the Silver Queen lift.

After the parade review, the teams will begin the climb up and over Crested Butte Mountain Resort terrain, exiting just below the East River lift, crossing the East River valley, turning down stream and rejoining the course on Brush Creek Road before climbing over two mountain passes. Several hours later, on April 2, racers arrive in Aspen tired, sore, bleary-eyed and exultant in their accomplishment.

In 2004, Pat O’Neill and Jim Faust of Crested Butte won the men’s division with an impressive time of 7:55:50. Ellen Miller of Breckenridge and William Mattison of Vail captured the co-ed division crown in 9:40:00. The dynamic duo of Ingrid Butts and Carol Quinn of Gunnison finished at 10:26:20 to lead the women’s division.

In addition to providing a quality wilderness race experience for entrants, race organizers make safety of all participants and minimal impact on the environment top priorities. The unusual start time is scheduled so that entrants will reach the high point of Star Pass (12,303 feet) before the warmth of the day increases the likelihood of avalanches. Because of the remote route through the Elk Mountains, each team of two is required to carry enough food and supplies to sustain themselves for 24 hours. Before the start of the race the team’s packs will be checked for essential gear such as bivy sacks, stove, fuel, avalanche beacons, rescue gear, first aid and repair kits.

More than 40 support team members are present in the backcountry during the race to insure skier safety. Some crews are out in the backcountry for a week before the event, assessing avalanche conditions and moving supplies into remote camps. Local pilots also assist by airdropping supplies into alpine basins. The difficult communications between aid stations are performed with O’Gara Systems Satellite Telephones.

Continuing as the race’s primary sponsor, Mountain Hardwear is proud to support an event that embodies the company’s philosophy and spirit. “The race incorporates an extreme physical challenge. It requires the ability and knowledge to navigate and survive in backcountry winter conditions. Our technical gear is put to grueling use, and the race is set up to be environmentally sound. Also, teamwork is emphasized,” says Jennifer Slaboda, sponsorship manager for Mountain Hardwear. In addition to supporting the race, Mountain Hardwear sponsors a team entering the race and provides the winning team with a prize of Mountain Hardwear gear.

The cost of entering the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse is $250.00 per team; Registration opens December 1, 2004. Remember registration is limited to 120 teams. For more information about the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse, visit

Lodging and travel packages are available for Grand Traverse participants and other visitors by calling the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association at (800) 814-8893 or visiting

About Gunnison-Crested Butte, Colorado

Gunnison-Crested Butte is nestled among almost two million acres of pristine wilderness in southwest Colorado. Winter sports enthusiasts know the area for its world-class alpine skiing and snowboarding, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice fishing. Gunnison-Crested Butte is also a haven for outdoor summer activities. In the warmer months, visitors can choose from recreational activities such as hiking, mountain biking, boating, whitewater rafting, kayaking, fly-fishing, camping and horseback riding. Year-round visitors enjoy distinctive restaurants, unique shops and stimulating cultural opportunities, and have a wide range of lodging options — from rustic inns to guest cabins and bed-and-breakfasts to full- service resort hotels.

Dubbed the Wildflower Capital of Colorado, Crested Butte is the site of rich mining, ranching and skiing heritage and home to the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame and Crested Butte Academy, a private college preparatory boarding and day school. Gunnison, a real western town, is home to the beautiful, high-country campus of Western State College, a four-year institution offering a variety of curricula, and the Gunnison- Crested Butte Regional Airport. Both Crested Butte and Gunnison have thriving historic central business districts packed with shopping and dining opportunities.

In Gunnison County, visitors will find the Curecanti National Recreation Area, where dinosaur fossils were recently discovered; the Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado's largest body of water and home to the largest Kokanee salmon fishery in the United States; and The Black Canyon of the Gunnison, our country's newest National Park. Gunnison County includes the quaint and historic towns of Pitkin, Gothic, Tin Cup, Marble, Powderhorn, Almont and Crystal, plus the better-known communities of Gunnison, Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte.

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8th Annual Elk Mountains Grand Traverse Presented by: