At the stroke of midnight on April 4, 1998, nearly 100 racers gathered in Crested Butte, Colorado. A day later, after racing through a crystal clear night and equally spectacular day, they arrived in Aspen, tired, sore, bleary eyed and exultant in their accomplishment. They had skied through 40 miles of rugged Elk Mountains backcountry. Each year since, 200 racers have done the same thing.
Based on the tradition of mail routes which connected the Colorado mining towns of Crested Butte and Aspen in the 1880s, the 40-mile course starts at 9,000 feet in Crested Butte, takes skiers through Mt. Crested Butte Ski Resort, over two mountain passes and finishes in the City of Aspen at the base of the Aspen Skiing Mountain. In addition to a quality wilderness race experience for entrants, priorities of the race organizers include the safety of all participants and minimal impact on the environment.
Depending on weather conditions the race is scheduled to start at midnight on Friday. This unusual start time is scheduled so entrants will reach the high point of Star pass at 12,303 feet before the warmth of the day increases the likelihood of avalanches.
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’s packs will be checked to be sure all essential gear is present including bivy sacks, stove, fuel, avalanche beacons and rescue gear, first aid and repair kits etc.