Race History

The Elk Mountains Grand Traverse was conceived by Crested ‘Buttian, Jan Runge and a band of  other backcountry devotees  in 1998.  The race’s genesis was partially based on the historical mail routes that connected the Colorado mining towns of Crested Butte and Aspen in the 1880s;  but also drew inspiration from the Patrouille des Glaciers, a point-to-point ski race in Switzerland which Runge had become familiar with in the 80’s.  Colorado’s own competitive ski mountaineering legacy was born!

Typically, the race starts at midnight so participants reach the high point of Star Pass (12,303 feet) before the warmth of the day increases avalanche risk on the exposed eastern slopes of the pass. 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 packs will be checked to be sure all essential gear is present including shelters, stove, fuel, avalanche beacons and rescue gear, first aid and repair kits etc.  The Grand Traverse is a true test of physical and mental endurance that keeps athletes returning year after year to experience perseverance in this Grand endeavor!

In 2012, event ownership was transferred to Crested Butte Nordic, and thereupon adopted its current name-  Gore-Tex Grand Traverse. The race has since been operated as an annual fundraising event for the local nonprofit.  To learn more about Nordic ski and snow sport amenities maintained by  Crested Butte Nordic, please visit www.cbnordic.org


Traditional Pre-Start Prayer
The Blessing of the Freeheelers
by Rev. Tim Clark

O creator of these soaring snow clad summits, we invoke your protection of these beloved brethren in their tremendous endeavor of courage and fortitude.
Blessed be thou great and glorious travelers of the night!
Blessed be thy race, and blessed be thy flight!
Bless ye two together as a team, bless thou thy boards, thy poles, and headlight gleam!
Blessed be thou GU gobbling free heeled skinny skiers;
May thy kick be strong and thy glide be long!
Blessed be thou when the winds doth shriek, flinging the spindrift from the peak!
Blessed be ye when the dark night shrouds, and the moon doth hide behind the clouds!
Blessed you are and blessed you’ll remain, though we come to worship the church of pain!
Now bless ye one another as we glide into the morn,
Let the racers give voice, a great day is now born!

  • Map

    For a downloadable PDF of the Grand Traverse Map please click here: Grand Traverse Map

  • Snow Safety

    Teams of avalanche forecasters assess the route in the weeks prior to the race. Current regional avalanche conditions can be found here:

    Colorado Avalanche Information Center

    Crested Butte Avalanche Center

  • – Mailinglist –