If you’re in the Aspen, Colorado area or can get here this weekend you are in for an athletic treat. Power of Four skimo race is happening Saturday, with amazing competitors. Last year the Aspen local Gaston & Taam team cleaned up a win with a rather astounding 23 minute lead. Experienced skimo racers took third and fourth spots.
Beyond the overall fun of spectating this contest (see our 2015 coverage), what was interesting last year is ultra runners Rob Krar and Mike Foote got fourth, 33 minutes off the lead. One has to assume the ultra guys have engines the size of fighter jets and only lost time due to their downhill skills. Thus, perhaps they’ve been practicing their 60 mph straightlining on skimo race gear? They’ll be back — and perhaps a force. More, we have possibly disruptive competition showing up in the form of other ultra-running teams, namely Anton Krupicka and Joe Grant. I’m telling you, this will be good.
We are of course rooting for our home teams. Namely Gaston and Taam, along with the guys from Cripple Creek Backcountry.
Only problem is that skimo racing here in cowboy country doesn’t have the jumbotron continuous live view you get in other forms of ski competition. Spectating is a DIY affair and rather humorous at times as unless you’re at the finish it’s tough to track what’s going on (the racers do have GPS tracking, so check website). But you can get a read with a spectation strategy, and being at the finish gives you an exciting few minutes as each team comes in. To that end: The race start is 6:00 am at Snowmass, but since you can’t drive to the start (bus shuttle) it’s probably best to skip it. (Typical of how North American skimo races seem to deny the existence of spectators, sigh…)
Instead, last year doing our first spectator stop at the Aspen Highlands base area was fun, as the racers are getting fairly worked and spread out by the time they come through the Highlands aid station. If you’re at Highlands by 7:15 that should be sufficient for seeing the first guys come through. Next, head over to Aspen Mountain, where you can either hang out at the finish, or get a one-ride gondola ticket and watch the racers top out their last climb, the brutal Midnight Mine uphill that caps the course total of 11,600 vertical feet (yes you read that right). To watch the top-out you’ll need to ski tour out about a mile south on Richmond Ridge, so you won’t make it back in time to see the first guys reach the finish. Insider hint: fully 4 boot pack climbs this year should make transitions a key element in the contest, along with icy piste descents and thin snow on the Congo Trail.
Be at the finish by 10:30 to be sure you catch the winners coming in. They’ll probably be there a bit after that, but if the course is super fast and the weather good, minutes could be trimmed from the course record. Announcer at the finish will keep you hip to where the racers are. CU there.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.