The Elk Mountains Grand Traverse is a backcountry ski race with very limited support. The equipment you carry into the backcountry is crucial. Each team is required to be independently prepared for a 24-hour bivouac. Due to the length of this course, the varying conditions and the number of racers, all participants must understand and be prepared to be self-supporting in any and all situations.

With this in mind, the race has a Mandatory Equipment List. We will check this equipment in detail during the registration process on Friday morning. Over the years, this Mandatory Gear Check has evolved, and we hope that it will continue to become more and more efficient and more and more accurate. In order to do this, we need the understanding and cooperation of the participants. The process will take about two and a half hours. The better prepared you are, the more quickly the process will be finished. Here’s how it will work this year:

Immediately following the Pre-Race Meeting, equipment inspection/judging will begin. We will judge teams in order of when you show up to registration. This is new for 2020! first come-first judged; you will get a number after you register. Spaces will be assigned to each team and the judges will move from space to space. At registration you will receive specific instructions and a diagram on how to set up your equipment in your space.

All your gear will need to be visible to the judges when they arrive at your assigned space. In other words, your gear will need to be unpacked! This will greatly speed the inspection/judging process. If you are not fully prepared when the judges arrive, the judges will move to the next team in line and return at the end of the process.

Judges decisions are final! If our judges consider you or your teammates gear to be inadequate you will not be allowed to race. This year’s Mandatory Equipment List is as specific as possible, but there will inevitably be subjective judgments on our part. We ask that you respect these judges and understand that it is your safety and the safety of our volunteers on the course that is paramount. What we ask you to pack isn’t necessarily all you have to bring. Be smart and backcountry-wise!

If you have items that you are “not sure about” and want to have them pre-judged, there will be a station at the registration table (before the gear check) for specific questions about specific gear. Before you arrive you can also submit questions via email to (No phone calls, please.)

You are required to have all of your mandatory equipment at the gear check. This includes your skis and poles.

Your water containers do not need to be full, but you must have them. You should bring your food. If you show it to the judges in the morning you won’t be required to show it at the final check before the race. This will save you time and effort. Ski boots are not required.

Teams with missing equipment will be required to complete a second gear check at 10:30 p.m. during the random pre-race gear check at the starting line. Under no circumstances will any racers be allowed on the course without all of the items on the minimum required equipment list.

Mandatory Equipment List

IMPORTANT MESSAGE! NO EVACUATIONS WILL BE PROVIDED FOR RACERS WITH BROKEN EQUIPMENT. NO OUTSIDE SUPPORT IS ALLOWED. This is a self-supported race. You will be disqualified if you accept outside support. If you lose your equipment, you cannot rely on other racers or organizers and volunteers to find it. You must find it yourself, or quit the race.

This list is a mandatory gear list. It’s broken down between individual and team/shared requirements.

Individual Equipment

Avalanche Beacon: Avalanche beacons must be worn and on at ALL times! Beacons must be on the 457kHz frequency. A beacon check will occur at final check-in (just before the start) and randomly on the course.

  • Avalanche Shovel: Minimum blade size of 9” x 9”. Shovel must have a handle.
  • Avalanche Probe Pole: A dedicated probe pole is very strongly recommended.
  • Skis: Skis ONLY! Skis of any type can be used. You must finish with the gear that you start with.
  • Boots: Blisters are the primary reason racers can’t finish.
  • Poles: Removable baskets are required.

Note: Due to the extreme nature of the route and the certainty of variable spring conditions you’ll encounter, the race organizers strongly recommend the use of a sturdy ski with at least a 3/4 metal edge. Boots and bindings designed for ungroomed backcountry terrain is absolutely necessary. This is NOT a Nordic race!

NO EVACUATIONS WILL BE PROVIDED FOR RACERS WITH BROKEN EQUIPMENT. And no outside support is allowed. This is a self-supported race. You will be disqualified if you accept outside support. If you loose your equipment, you must not rely on other racers or oragnizers to find it. Find it yourself or quit the race.

Skins: Good quality climbing skins, cut to fit your skis.

  • Ski Leashes: Required to descend Aspen Mountain to the finish line.
  • Equipment Repair Kit (minimum required): Spare pole basket, spare binding that matches the ones on your skis, screwdriver/posidriver, screws to replace binding, 2′ of duct tape, 2′ of baling wire, and 2′ of parachute cord. You may share a compatible spare binding with your teammate.
  • Sleeping Pad: Minimum 20″ x 48″ x 1/2″. Pad must be closed cell foam. Yoga mats are not acceptable.
  • Sleeping Bag: Rated to -10F° (negative-10 degrees Farenheit) . Down jacket and 200wt fleece pants can substitute at judges discretion.
  • Extra Clothing (minimum required): Base layer (top and bottom), socks, wind shell (top and bottom) and warm hat. The key word is “extra” and means clothing that you do not start the race with.
  • Bivy Sack: A two-person bivy can be shared between teammates. Individual, high-quality Mylar “space bags” (not blankets) can be substituted for bivy sacks at the judge’s discretion (based on the rest of your warmth strategy).
  • Headlamp: Spare batteries or lamp are required.
  • Eye and skin protection: Sunglasses AND goggles required. Sunscreen required.
  • Water and Food: Racers must carry ample food and water for 24 hours. 100-oz minimum water.

Racers must also carry either water purification tablets or a filter. Aid stations will have limited food supplies that should be supplemental only! But do not rely on aid stations for water! Again, this is a backcountry race with limited support and you are to be prepared for a 24-hour bivouac.

Shared Equipment

Basic First Aid Kit: You must carry a substantial first aid kit. It must include 6 steri-strips, triangular bandages with pin, two 4×4 gauze pads, surgical ABD or sanitary napkins (or some means to manage heavy bleeding), and any prescription meds you may require.

Blister Kit: In addition to your first aid kit you must have a significant blister kit with at least two sheets of mole skin, medical tape, and alcohol swabs.

Stove: A commercial quality stove is required. You will be required to demonstrate its ability to melt snow.

Cooking Container: A quality container for melting snow into drinking water. It must hold at least 32 oz of water.

Fuel and ignition: A full fuel container, or six solid fuel blocks. Matches and/or lighter to start stove and fire.

Navigation: You must carry a map of the course and a compass. Topo maps can be ordered online from The Alpineer

COSAR Hiking Permit: Available at registration.