Upslope Sponsors Legendary Backcountry Ski Race: the Grand Traverse

Since 1998, the annual winter Grand Traverse has been bringing together elite, local and international backcountry ski athletes for the ultimate challenge. As a test of endurance and mental toughness, racers climb more than 7,800 vertical feet and navigate the backcountry in teams of two and are required to carry mandatory gear for safety. For the second year in a row Upslope was proud to be the craft beer sponsor providing much needed après adventure beers for the athletes as they crossed the finish line.

Typically, the Grand Traverse takes place over the Elk Mountains between Crested Butte and Aspen, CO. This year, for the 4th time in its history, dangerous weather conditions and avalanche danger caused the race organizers to call an audible and deem it the “Grand Reverse”, where teams turn around midway through and end the race where they began in Crested Butte. Upslope Co-Owner and Director of Sales and Marketing, Henry Wood, participated in this year’s Grand Reverse alongside Upslope sponsored athlete and friend, Fritz Moriarty. On the change in course from traverse to reverse, Henry notes, “I’m hearing conflicting reports as to the exact course stats but the most consistent numbers are 35 miles and 7,500 feet of climbing. 225 teams started the race and 168 completed the course.” That’s no easy feat. And while team Upslope was unable to complete the course last year in 2015 when Fritz’s ski binding disintegrated at mile 15, we’re proud to say they came back strong and completed the course successfully this time around.

Henry and Fritz with their finishing medals!

Henry and Fritz with their finishing medals!

“This has been a goal of mine since I first heard about the race 15 years ago,” Henry recalls, “It took a long time to convince one of my backcountry ski partners to spend the majority of their ski season training for an endurance race- much less two seasons! Fortunately, Fritz has an appetite for this sort of thing. Not completing the race in 2015 was devastating but we couldn’t leave it unfinished. While it feels great to have this monkey off our back, we still never made it to Aspen. We’ll be back to complete the real Traverse. It’s pretty amazing how fun suffering can be!” And of course, it helps to know there is beer at the end of the race.

Getting the celebration beer to reverse the finish line was also a challenge in the weather conditions. When the race director Andrew Arell made the last minute announcement that athletes would be racing to Crested Butte instead of Aspen, Upslope mountain sales rep Cole Karchner broke down equipment in Aspen, rallied and loaded up the beer and made the 4+ hour trek to Crested Butte which was quite the adventure in itself!

Upslope reps ready to hand out cans at the finish line!

Upslope reps ready to hand out cans at the finish line!

But the adventure is what this race is all about and Upslope is so proud to be a part of it. “This is the second year we’ve been the beer sponsor for the GORE-TEX Grand Traverse,” Henry notes, “They are great partners to work with. This race is a major ‘bucket list’ event for mountain athletes all over the world. The brand alignment and Grand Traverse participant demographic is spot on for Upslope.”

Grand Traverse winners standing on the Upslope can podium.

Grand Traverse winners standing on the Upslope can podium.

At Upslope, when we say #apreseverything, we mean anything- blizzards and epic ski races included! Congrats to the winners of this year’s Grand Reverse. We’ll be seeing you all again next year!

Photo Credit // Grand Traverse

Photo Credit // Grand Traverse

About the Grand Traverse //  The Grand Traverse is a series of legendary backcountry races over the Elk Mountains between the towns of Crested Butte and Aspen, CO. The event benefits Crested Butte Nordic and other non-profits.

The Winter Grand Traverse is a backcountry ski race that starts at midnight from Crested Butte. In this extreme endurance event, racers climb more than 7,800 vertical feet and navigate in a self-supported backcountry race that tests them physically and mentally. To maintain safety in the backcountry, racers compete in teams of two and are required to carry mandatory gear. Held annually since 1998, it’s earned a reputation as a true test of toughness for elite local, national and international athletes.

The Summer Grand Traverse which started in 2014 features a Mountain Bike and Running Race held over two days.