Colorado’s Grand Traverse: Ski 40 Miles from Crested Butte to Aspen
To travel the 41 miles between Crested Butte, and Aspen by car you actually need to drive about 200 miles around Colorado's Elk mountains. Did you know Coloradans have been skiing over this portion of the Elks since the 1890s?
To drive from CB on a paved road you would have to drive from Crested Butte back up Highway 50 to Grand Junction, and then around to Aspen via I-70. To build a 40-mile highway through this portion of the Rockies would come at an incredible expense, and would it be worth it? If you want to head off-road, there are routes/forest service roads you can follow between the two.
Skiing Over the Elk Mountains in Colorado
Crested Butte locals tell of a legendary postmaster named Al Johnson from Crystal, Colorado. In the 1890s, Johnson allegedly would carry a week's worth of mail on skis to Crested Butte from Crystal. It is said he would travel through some of the worst avalanche-prone areas in the Rockies.
In 1998, a brave group of individuals participated in the first race on skis over the Elk mountains. Not only did they make it, but they also helped create one of the most breathtaking outdoor adventures Colorado has to offer.
The Grand Traverse: Colorado's Ultimate Endurance Race
The race is about 41 miles through mountain passes between Crested Butte and Aspen. There is an elevation gain of between 7,000 and 7,500 feet. Scroll through the photos of the race below and get an idea of what it's like to be on this amazing adventure.
The Grand Traverse Winter race is held near the end of ski season and usually takes place in early April. There are two summer races that take place in September featuring running and mountain bikes. The route also features a hiking trail so you can go at your own pace.
Coloradans Race at Midnight
The winter race starts in the middle of the night when avalanche risks are much lower. Crested Butte Mountain Resort is usually loaded up with about 250 to 300 skiers and their guests the night of the race. Skiers start at midnight and can average up to 18 hours to arrive in Aspen. The fastest time was recorded in 2021 at just over 6 hours to complete the entire course. Let's take a closer look below.