Skip to content

An Introduction to the Grand Traverse

Wildflowers in Crested Butte

An Introduction to the Grand Traverse

An Introduction to the Grand Traverse

Last year was my first full year learning how to ski. After moving from Washington State I recall my first day on Mount Crested Butte – sliding down mellow Houston in alpine boots and E84 Rossignol skis with legs hunched in like a slice of pizza. A week later I tried my first blue run and did the splits in Paradise Bowl. And for months following I managed to turn through powder-filled bumps on Resurrection, slide down Headwall, ski the North Face, hike up Crested Butte mountain to ski off the peak, and skin up Mount Emmons to ski the bowl.

This is why my brother Cyrus and I moved out to Crested Butte: for powder, for mountains and for recreation. But most of all, we moved to Crested Butte to compete in the Grand Traverse. 

The Grand Traverse is a ski-mountaineering race in Colorado that traverses the Western Elk Range between Crested Butte and Aspen. The event was first constructed in 1997 and designed similarly to races in Europe that tour from village to village. The course follows a parallel route from the 1880’s when skiers carried mail between Crested Butte and Aspen and travels forty miles and ascends 7800 feet. Due to the challenge and ascetic beauty the race has increased in size from 100 racers in 1997 to over 400 in 2016. The event now fills up in a few hours. 

After moving to Crested Butte, we quickly took up a new sport called ski mountaineering or “Randonee skiing.” Although our background was in trail running and mountaineering, we discovered that many trail-runners compete in randonee races during the winter. Randonee skiing is a sport encompassing light and fast gear: flexible carbon boots, skinny skis, and mohair skins to quickly ascend peaks, traverse ridges, and survive the downhill. This past year, we delved into a few local and larger races such as the Audi Power of 4 in Aspen. Until now however, we have not yet had the opportunity to compete in a backcountry ski race of this magnitude.

We’re very excited to represent Crested Butte Mountain Resort in this year’s Grand Traverse, and racing the GT will provide a unique and exciting challenge. We will delve into more of our goals for the season and our current training in our next post! 

- Niles and Cyrus Desmarais, CBMR sponsored athletes