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The 2014 GoreTex Grand Traverse (Reverse)

For more than a week now, I’ve struggled against my keyboard to beat out a race report from the GoreTex Grand Traverse (GT), which Taylor and I raced on the night of march 28th and well into the day on the 29th. To encapsulate 15 hours of backcountry racing into a succinct blog post is nigh impossible given the spectral range of emotions and experiences that evolve and transpire during such a lengthy race. Nevertheless, inspired by a report from my friend and fellow racer Ethan Linck, I hope to bring you a few highlights. 

Expanding my sense of the possible is the biggest kick that I get from prolonged endurance events, and the GT was a new high for me. I’m a new convert to prolonged endurance, having only run my first Ultramarathon last summer. Nevertheless, it’s an addicting feeling to line up for a new challenge and to wait for the gun on a race that’s longer than you’ve ever done before. More addicting still is the confidence that, regardless of the duration, you are strong enough to finish– that feels good.

skinning crested butte

Skinning into the beautiful mountains of Crested Butte, headed to the sanctuary of Gothic.

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GoreTex Grand Traverse: Q&A with Team Crested Butte’s Jon Brown

GoreTex Grand Traverse Logo

The GoreTex Grand Traverse (formerly the Elk Mountains Grand Traverse) is the grand-daddy of North American ski traverses.  Departing Crested Butte at midnight, the unsupported course climbs roughly 40 miles past two checkpoints before finishing down Aspen Mountain into the town of Aspen. Because the race takes place on an unmarked and largely unsupported course through the Colorado backcountry, the race is completed as a team of two, and racers are required to carry the equipment necessary to make an emergency 24 hour bivouac.


The night start, huge mileage, variable terrain, and historically varied weather make this a race to be reckoned with. Racers need to keep themselves warm, hydrated, fueled and, well, racing for 8-14 hours. Compared to the Wasatch Powderkeg or other North American SkiMo races, it is logistically complex.

This year will be my first in the race and I, like many first time racers, had a lot of questions. Jon Brown, from Team Crested Butte, was gracious enough to talk training, gear, and strategy with me.

Team Crested Butte

Old school Team Crested Butte at Grandvalira. LtoR: Jon Brown, Jari Kirkland, Brian Wickenhauser & Eric Sullivan

Jon Brown is a member of Team Crested Butte, and he has raced the Grand Traverse 10 out of the last 12 years. He and his partner Brian Smith won the 2006 traverse by a hair, sneaking across the finish line between another pair of racers.

He started nordic skiing in highschool but since discovering SkiMo skis, his nordic kit has been collecting dust in his garage. Jon began his race career as a mountain bike racer after graduating from Western State Colorado University, paying the bills by working as a raft guide, barista, and snowmobile guide. In his 30s he moved to Gunnison where he started a small publishing company and started adventure racing with Team Crested Butte.

TCB has since evolved from an adventure racing team into one of the strongest SkiMo teams in North America. Read on →