Sunday, March 31, 2013

Elk Mountain Grand Traverse - Race recap

Dominique, Tom's GF, drove Tom, Teague, Andy and I down to the start of the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse in Crested Butte last Thursday.  We all had big hopes of representing SLC well and placing high.  

Last year Andy and I were in good position (basically tied for the lead) half way through the race and then proceeded to break a boot, get lost twice, and absolutely blow up.  Needless to say, it didn't end as planned.  This year the plan was to hold back over the first half of the race and then pick people off over the last half.      
The start, All photos by Dominique Maack
The start was odd to say the least.  After the first up in the resort there's a groomed down that transitions to off piste.  This year the groomed trail abruptly stopped just after a rollover and immediately turned into breakable crust over knee deep sugar/powder.  Everyone came rocketing over the roll in a full tuck expecting the groomer to keep going and just about everyone blew up as they augured in.  Marshell Thompson was the first to find the breakable and ended up breaking his pole.  We immediately counted him and Tom out.

The next two hours were spent swapping leads as the field broke trail though this horrendous breakable crust.  It would support one's weight for a step and they you'd sink to your knees.  The whole field ground to a halt and 340 participants were lined up back to back to back in a single file line over a mile or so.  340 headlamps in a line in the middle of a snowy field is quite the sight. 

Once we hit a snow mobile track the trail breaking was over and it was time to start racing again.  There was a group of 6 that formed (Tom/Marshell, Teague/Brad, Wick/Smith, A Nordic Team, Simmons/Kloser, Andy and I).  At first the nordic team was in the lead but we all figured they'd be a non factor since their gear is so incredibly hard to ski.  They ended up 5th - amazing.  Turns out olympic nordic guys can rip some steep descents on their gear.  

Heading up to the half way point Tom and Marshell put in a move, then Teague and Brad did.  Andy and I stuck with the plan and showed a little restraint.  We figured Marshell would fall apart with only one pole and, since we were still feeling fresh, we'd be able to reel in Teague and Brad.  We were wrong on both accounts.  Apart form not catching the other two teams, the last half of the race went exactly as Andy and I planned.  We felt strong and were moving quicker than expected.  Maybe our plan was a little too conservative. In the end, Tom/Marshell got the win (amazingly strong day with a broken pole!), Teague/Brad held on for second, and Andy and I held on for third.  The teams in our car swept the race!

Giving congrats to the winners, Andy coughing up 8 hours of movement
Everyone psyched to be on the podium!
The win would have been amazing but clearly the other two teams were faster that day.  That fact Marshell and Tom won with 3 1/2 poles is really impressive.  It kind of make us all look like chumps but I guess finishing second for the past two years (and some amazing fitness) motivated Marshell to keep pushing.

Again, our race went exactly as planned and whenever that happens it's hard to complain about anything.  After the whole disaster last year, we swore we'd never come back to this sufferfest but now it might turn into a tradition.  The whole event is unique and phenomenal.  From the gear prep to the racing in the middle of the night to the huge after-party in Aspen, the EMGT (or is it Gore-Tex Grand Traverse?) has something special.  If you haven't done it, next year might be a good time to start.
The winners looking like they're in  love.  


  1. wow, maybe you can just take the podium back with you in that car.

  2. Wasatch Skimo, way to represent. Interesting that you relative low landers handed it to the Colorado boys. Nicely done.

    I expect you guys to win that event once you're done with school. Anything else is unacceptable. Start planning.

    1. From the Aspen Times, "Thomson and Goth, two ski mountaineers from Crested Butte.................The runner-up team from Breckenridge"

    2. Goth is from SLC and Teague (2nd place) lives in SLC but is originally from Breckenridge.

    3. Ha, shame on the Aspen Times for not giving the Wasatch any love.

      BH- Thanks! We've already started planning, it just hasn't worked... Maybe next year.

  3. I wouldn't get all provincial on this, Marshall from CB was the stud of the day, hands down. There are plenty of sick skiers from plenty of towns that need to get into this race, Nords and SkiMo alike. Perhaps 2014 can be the best edition yet!

    1. No one's going to disagree with that, Marshell embarrassed us all. Hope the race keeps growing!

    2. And don't forget about Tom. No question Marshall is now a legend with the broken pole but Tom was every bit as fast. It's a partners race after all...

  4. Agree with everyone here.To do this race and pull it off is a well deserved pat on the back!!For the 2nd year in a row Mother Nature has been pretty nice.What was really interesting to see in the race this year was how many people were on Tele set/ups Heavy Metal set/ups and the like,and fast.Pretty interesting to see all those set/ups.Heck,there was even one womans team with Full on Music cranking from there backpacks!!!Awesome stuff!!
    Well,Rock-N-Roll everyone have a safe Spring/Summer/Fall and put Dec1st on your calendar,and get it done!!!!


  5. Go to my website to check out slideshow from last Grand Traverse

  6. Good job out there.

    Interesting to me is how quick the dominance of AT gear took over this race. It was only back in 2007 that Wick and Eric Sullivan surprised everyone and grabbed the lead ahead of nordic skiers, only to lose it later. Their top ten finish on AT gear that day was big news.

    Now six years later it was news at the finish party that nordic skiers held the lead for a bit, and cracked the top ten at the finish.

    Not surprising, just interesting to see the evolution happen so quick.


    I talked about it more -

  7. Forgot a link the to "news" on Wildsnow

    And just for he record, the local papers rarely get everything totally correct.