Summit dwellers test endurance at The Grand Traverse ski race

Participants in the Grand Traverse ski race on Saturday April 2 await the start of the 25th annual race. Summit County saw several athletes compete in the 40-mile race, including the LaRochelles, who placed first in the mixed division and fourth overall.
Uphill athlete / Courtesy photo

Over the weekend, several Summit County residents participated in The Grand Traverse Ski Race, climbing more than 6,800 vertical feet during the 40-mile trek through the Elk Mountain Range from Crested Butte to Aspen.

This year’s field consisted of 250 teams of two. Competitors began lining up in the late hours of Saturday April 2 and began their journey to Aspen at midnight to mitigate any possible avalanche danger.

“This race is a classic Colorado event, and this year was the 25th running,” Breckenridge local Nikki LaRochelle said in an email. “I love our crazy mountain culture.”

LaRochelle got in on the action herself, running with her husband, Brad.

The duo had an impressive run. They took first place in the mixed category and fourth place overall with a time of 7 hours, 56 minutes, 25.1 seconds.

What made the LaRochelles performance even more impressive was the fact that the duo were only edged out by teams significantly younger than them. The LaRochelles were in the 36-45 middle age division, but the three teams that beat them overall were all in the 26-35 middle age division.

After the LaRochelle team was another Summit resident, John O’Neil, who was a member of the Cinderella Story Strikes Back Again team.

O’Neil helped his team to fifth place overall and fourth in the 26-35 age group, crossing the finish line in 8:10:19.3.

Frisco resident Eugenio Perez raced for the Burros, Birras y Barbas team, helping his teammates to 31st overall and sixth in the 36-45 middle age category. Perez’s team finished in 10:37.17.

The race was dominated by local athlete and longtime Aspen professional John Gaston and his partner Cam Smith. The duo finished the course in 6:13:15.4, almost 40 minutes ahead of second place.