Race Review: Grand Traverse Ski 2023

Now in its 25th year, the time honoured Grand Traverse Ski race knows how to put skiers through their paces. Here’s how this special edition shaped up.

Photo: Eric Phillips

Based in the wild Rocky Mountains of Colorado USA, The Grand Traverse Ski is a truly epic challenge taking racers deep into snowy wilderness. Ungroomed, rugged, backcountry terrain and 6,800 vertical feet of ascent await those eager to take on the 40-mile race from the small mountain town of Crested Butte to the more well-known glamorous ski slopes of Aspen. 

As usual, before the 01 April had even dawned, 234 teams of skiers were towing the start line in pairs, ready to set off at midnight into the dark on their adventure across the Rocky Mountains. For those unfamiliar, take a look at our day on the GT trail blog to hear from former GT Ski racer Graham Zimmerman about his experience.

This year, on hand to help was Montane International Lead Charlotte Guinan. Here are her race highlights….

“The 25th Montane Grand Traverse was an amazing experience to attend. This year, the weather was rapidly changing, right up to the start, with storms and lots of snowfall, followed by heating up rapidly. As a result, the avalanche team was on high alert. 

Despite this, the racers stayed in good spirits and I will never forget the electricity in the room when the race director announced in the pre-race brief “as of right now, we are going to Aspen!”, which was met with applause and cheering from the athletes. Charlotte Guinan, Montane International Lead

The Story Behind the GT


Rapidly Changing Weather Conditions

As with every year, an assessment is carefully taken by avalanche experts stationed at Star Pass - the highest point of the route. Weather allowing, racers are able to continue on to Aspen. However, if the conditions are deemed too dangerous, the ‘Grand Reverse’ is then activated, with skiers returning back to Crested Butte from this point.

This year, the weather in Colorado was unprecedented, with snow fall every week since Thanksgiving. Crested Butte itself saw the surpassing of 300 inches of snow (for the season) just days before the race. This left race director Becky Nation only confirming it would not be the ‘Grand Reverse’ minutes before the race briefing on Saturday. The full Grand Traverse experience was once again up for the taking again this year!

Grand Traverse Weather Conditions

2023 GT Ski Winners 

Now in its 25th year, the GT Ski has earned itself the rightful reputation as one of the best ski races in North America. As a result, it attracts a high volume of returning racers (including Rich Smith who was taking on the race for an incredible 24th time!), as well as many newcomers looking to try this iconic ski challenge.

Overall, first place this year went to Logan Greydanus and Adam Loomis who skied into Aspen before the sun had even risen, with an impressive finishing time of 6:45:53.9. This was Logan’s 8th time competing and both racers are on the US ski-mo team. 

Also towing the start line this year was #TeamMontane athlete and local Crested Butte resident Brandon Johanns (learn more about him in our pre race Q&A.) Having competed in the GT Run in 2022 and placing 5th, he was back to take on the ski race for the very first time with his racing partner Nick Couts. Despite Brandon being more of a runner, the pair did exceptionally well coming 21st overall.

Brandon Johanns and Nick Couts Montane Athletes

Discover the full race results on the Grand Traverse’s dedicated results page

“We had beautiful weather and the conditions were solid. Good visibility and fairly warm. Neither of us fell! We did have some technical issues with a flashing headlight before we reached the top of Star Pass. This wasn’t ideal timing, but we made it out alive. Overall, it was a super race experience!” Brandon Johanns, #TeamMontane athlete

A unique challenge in the mountains

One of the big highlights of the race is the history that ties it altogether. Two starkly different towns are united by the Grand Traverse race and have been now for 25 years. Significantly, Crested Butte’s history is deep rooted in mining. In the 80s, an influx of hippies saw unrest at the clashing of these two very different cultures. To help unite the town, a festival is now being thrown every year to commemorate this. 

The strong community-focused town of Crested Butte feels worlds away from the glamorous ski town of Aspen. Regularly frequented by the stars, including the Kardashians, it’s a place where “you either have three houses or three jobs and where you pay $23 for a croissant”. 

Combining these two towns is not only the basis for this race, it offers participants a totally unique experience to traverse between two of Colorado’s most beautiful mountain towns on a wild journey over totally epic, unspoiled landscapes. Today, the Grand Traverse has now become a bucket list event in the backcountry and ski-mountaineering community. People frequently travel from all over the US to take part. 

Crested Butte to Aspen - The Grand Traverse

Can’t wait for more GT action?

Good news! You don’t have to wait long… The Grand Traverse returns for a summer edition in early September (02 - 03 Sep)  for an altogether different race with hot, dusty trails instead of snow! It’s an opportunity for runners and bikers to test themselves on the same remote trails from Crested Butte to Aspen. For those brave enough, it’s also the chance to claim the coveted title of the Triple Crown.