Grand Traverse Q&A: Meet the athletes

With the Grand Traverse Ski race returning for a 25th edition, we meet some of the #TeamMontane hopefuls gearing up to take on this iconic challenge in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA.

Are you ready for another epic sub-zero ultra? Good news! The Grand Traverse Ski race returns on 01-02 April.  This iconic backcountry ski race based in the remote Rocky Mountains of Colorado and puts skiers through their paces as they take on over 2,000 m across wild mountain terrain, from Crested Butte to Aspen. For those unsure of what to expect, take a look at our dedicated story behind to discover more about the ski races origins and route highlights. 

Joining us to take on thie challenge this year are 2 new members to #TeamMontane Brandon Johanns and Jessica Yeaton. Keep reading to learn more about these athletes and to discover why they’re taking on this iconic, time-honoured ski event…

Tell us a bit about yourself

Brandon: I live, work and play in Crested Butte, Colorado!  CB has some of the best trail and mountain access in the state making it one BIG playground! I love trail running, mountain biking, camping, skiing, snowboarding, mountainboarding and photography!

Jessica: I am currently living and working as a Physical Therapist in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. For me, its paradise; I get to enjoy incredible winters with super close access to xc and backcountry skiing, AND enjoy some of the best mountain bike/ running trails in the summer. Bonus is the Yampa river that runs right through town I can jump into all summer long!

What’s your favourite place in the world and why?

Brandon: “The sacred art of staying put” is a motto among those who call Crested Butte home year round.  Crested Butte experiences all 4 seasons to the fullest.  Summer’s wildflowers, Autumn’s golden aspen leaves, Winter’s thick blanket of snow and Spring’s rebirth.  I’ve lived in Crested Butte for over 10 years and I’m still discovering new landscapes and new ways of experiencing this place! There is something truly magical about these mountains, the valley and the community here!  There’s no place like home!

Jessica: That’s a tough question! I’m not sure I could pick one favorite place, but Moab, Utah definitely has a special place in my heart. Its one of my favorite places to ride my mountain bike; I love desert riding and the technical challenge it provides. There are so many incredible trails to choose from, the scenery is absolutely breathtaking, there are plenty of places to camp, and the Colorado river runs right through- there’s nothing better than a dip after a hot, challenging ride!

Share a fun fact about you

Brandon: I have a 4-year-old border collie named Aura, who is my #1 adventure buddy and BFF!  I’m a big animal lover and run a small pet boutique in CB called Mountain Tails!  I believe everyone should adopt a furry best friend! 

Jessica: I used to work as a barista, so I can pour some killer latte art. Outside of enjoying the outdoors and work, I love playing the piano and seeking out the best breweries, coffee shops, and swimming spots (a crucial part of all summer adventures!) wherever I am.

Your taking on the Grand Traverse Ski this year - what’s the appeal? 

Brandon: My first trip to Crested Butte was in 2012 to visit a friend and go to a community disco party fundraiser!  At midnight the party paused and everyone ran outside to watch the start of the Grand Traverse!  I remember being told, “Those athletes are skiing to Aspen!” I was blown away!  Fast forward a decade, I’ve ran the GT twice, volunteered a few times and now it’s my time to ski to Aspen!  I’m so psyched! 

Jessica: I haven’t competed in the GT ski before, although I did do the bike race last year. I guess you could say I was hooked by the incredible views, epic terrain, and awesome race atmosphere! I also am excited to take on a new challenge, as I’ve never done a ski-mo race before. I am most looking forward to getting over the top of the pass in the middle of the night. I love the fact that the race starts at midnight and have my fingers crossed for a clear, starry night- its one of my favorite things to be outside enjoying that at night. I anticipate my biggest challenges will be if it gets really cold/ the weather gets bad, and transitions… that’s something I need to really work on!

Finally, what’s your ultimate motivational song? 

Brandon: I love this question!  Good music is as important as good nutrition! A few of my favorites are… “Bubblin” by Anderson .Paak, “I like it” by Cardi B, “Cluck Ol’ Hen” by Rising Appalachia

Jessica:   I wanna dance with Somebody- Whitney Houston