“This race is not for novices.” That’s what the movie trailer, and the website, and the friends I’ve talked to about the Elk Mountains Grand Traverse all have to say about the annual ski race over some of Colorado’s most rugged mountains. Forty miles of skiing, with nearly 5,000 feet of climbing in unpredictable spring snow conditions? It doesn’t sound like a dream vacation, but it’s also not like it’s the Iditarod.
Never mind that I’ve only been backcountry skiing a handful of times, that I don’t have a set of skis appropriate for the race—I haven’t made my Christmas wish list just yet—or that the last time I actually trained for something (a marathon last May), it took me months to recover my enthusiasm for running. Despite these reasons I have to avoid it, doing the “Grand Traverse” would earn me some hard-won backcountry cred and I’ve got an experienced friend who’s convinced I’d be a killer teammate. Both are inspiring my serious consideration.
I’ve never let inexperience or “novice” status stand as an appropriate excuse for missing an opportunity, but is this race more than I can handle? There are about 100 days between now and the big event. Is that enough time to gather the gear I’d need, whip myself into shape, hone my skills, and still lead a quasi-normal life?
We’re set to finalize our plans before registration opens Dec. 1 and, at this point, there are some extenuating scheduling issues that are key to our eligibility… so it could go either way. But I’m open to advice if you’ve got any insight into judging your own abilities and trying something hard-core for the first time.