We’re happy to have another Power of Four checked off the list. The giant Tour de Aspen/Snowmass, our local contribution to the COSMIC Race Series, was once again a true grunt.
Christy and I did not do this two-person team event together like we did last year. Christy opted to do it as a women’s team with Anda, her primary training partner, and Charlie MacArthur and I lined up in the men’s division. There were quite a few looks of disbelief or surprise by some when it was revealed we were with other team mates. Just to be clear, Christy didn’t drop me as a partner because I was too slow nor is it a testimony to our larger relationship. It’s just a case of having other friends we like going out with, and it’s good to change things up here and there.
New to the race, now in its second year, was an earlier start time and a shorter trip through Snowmass. With winning times of over six hours last year, the course was thought to be a bit too long for the back-of-the-pack participants, so the first section through Snowmass was made more direct. Racers headed directly up to Burnt Mountain from Base Village instead of completing the two climbs (one was up to the Hanging Valley Wall) that the course included last year. It still worked out to about 25 miles and 11k feet of vertical gain.
The race continued on the usual path along the ridge to Buttermilk, down Tiehack and over to Highlands. The 4,400 foot climb up Highlands was topped off with intense winds near the summit, leaving many competitors with a windburn/frostbite mark, a.k.a. a “Highlands tattoo” on their right cheeks. You can include Christy in that group. Skiing any line down the Bowl, racers then made their way to the Congo Trail and down to Castle Creek for the final climb up Aspen Mountain via Midnight Mine Road. Avalanche danger resulted in a reroute near the top, actually adding distance, bringing everyone up to Richmond Ridge for a finish akin to the Grand Traverse. A bumpy descent down Walsh’s then led to the finish. Yahoo.
Charlie and I felt great, and we finished an hour faster than my time last year. You can see results here. Chalk some of that faster time up to keeping both of my skis in one piece this time, and maybe a little bit to the shortened course. Thankfully, we finished in front of Christy and Anda, though just barely. You know I would never hear the end of it had it worked out the other way. Way to hustle for that, Charlie.
Kudos to Aspen locals Pete and John Gaston, (read the Aspen Times story here) who won by mere seconds, and after straight-lining Copper Bowl on their little race skis. All racers were given Flaik GPS trackers at the start, and theirs reportedly recorded a 60+ mph speed on that last downhill. Crazy. Way to get it done. For some photos of the close finish, check out some of Dick Jackson’s photos on the Aspen Expedition’s blog here.
Next up on the race calendar, Christy and I reunite for the Grand Traverse, at the end of the month.