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Mt St Helens Speed Ski

Mt Rainier from Mt St Helens

St Helens crater rim, with Mt Rainier in the distance.

Mt St Helens – Worm Flow winter route – 5500′, 11.3 mi, 3:37:01 car to car.

I’m past whining now. Everywhere in the West (barring BC) is pretty shy of snow. I could keep whining about how this was forecast to be an average season, but that get’s old. Fast.

Most snow conditions, except full-depth facets with a punchy crust, are good for something. Look on the bright side right? What does our snowpack look like right now? A spring snowpack. What’s that good for? Big days in the mountains and corn skiing.

Rather than sit on my petard, I decided to explore Mt St Helens. I’d never been, despite looking at it on the horizon for years, and I was told that it was the place to go for spring skiing.

St Helens is not a technical climb by any stretch of the imagination, so I decided to see what kind of speed I could lay down from the car to the summit and back.  Conditions weren’t ideal but I was happy with how it panned out. Read on →

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 →