July 19, 2023 3 min read
These events draw visitors from all around the world, but few are as physically challenging or have quite the same reputation as the Grand Traverse. Originally established in the 1990s as a point-to-point skimo race connecting Crested Butte and Aspen, it is now a twice-annual event with a trail runand mountain bike option on consecutive days in late summer.
The course depends on the sport. Runners are routed from Crested Butte to Aspen, and mountain bikers the opposite way the following day; meaning a handful of athletes elect to tackle both. Either way, athletes will travel 40 miles and climb between 6,000 and 8,000 feet over the top of the Elk Mountains, ultimately dropping into a mountain town finish line amidst a plethora of cheering fans.
We caught up with the Grand Traverse race director, Becky Nation of Crested Butte Nordic, to find out more about the event’s history and future—including the best way to participate in the fun this year and beyond.
Photo by Xavi Fane
The Grand Traverse Mountain Run & Bike was created in 2014. In 2015 the Dual Sport and Triple Crown titles were created to encourage athletes to test their multisport capabilities. The Summer GT usually sells out in the spring and has an extensive waitlist. It's growing in popularity as endurance races grow, especially in the mountains. We're excited to continue to make this event the best it can be!
The altitude and weather conditions catch a lot of athletes by surprise. In longer races, you never know how you're going to feel, and those two elements add to the fun.
Photo by Petar Dopchev
There is no other race like this in the US. It is the ultimate test of the backcountry athlete. It's fun to truly be in the backcountry all the way from the start to the finish. There's also so much history behind the race. The summer formats make the race a little more accessible for people who haven't crossed over into winter endurance sports.
Hydrate with electrolytes! Most participants do not live at altitude. The dry air and high elevation deplete their electrolyte stores even before the start of the race, causing lots of bonks.
Photo by Petar Dopchev
Practice with shorter trail races before attempting the GT. Make sure you have a solid nutrition plan, and hydrate! And, of course, enjoy the journey.
The start and finish lines are always the best places to spectate. Bring the party! Due to the backcountry nature of these races, the course is inaccessible; we discourage spectators from driving to sections of the course.
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