Crested Butte Al Johnson Ski Race
The Crested Butte Al Johnson Ski Race is quite a spectacle. What do you get when you combine Spring skiing weather, a race on Telemark Skis that goes Uphill and Downhill, and Crested Butte people who love to have fun!
Yes, the Crested Butte Al Johnson Ski Race like many fun events in Crested Butte includes a small group of uber athletes who are competing to win or get their best times, plus a ton of “racers” who show up, dress up, and celebrate life in Crested Butte!
The Crested Butte Al Johnson Ski Race race starts near the base of the North Face Lift and as you will see from the video there is a mass start of all the competitors. The racers quickly separate themselves and the creative costumes (and perhaps some pre-race partying) tends to slow down the remainder of the field…
All the competitors will climb approximately 800 feet to the top of the ridge, then they must ski down approximately 1,200 feet of double black diamond extreme terrain and finish skiing (or sliding) down the Last Steep ski run.
Competitors are required to ski using free-heel telemark equipment. Not easy on a normal day, and quite a bit harder with the bulky costumes (some are skiing together in some sort of group costume). There is usually quite a bit of carnage at this point in the race and some competitors are cleaning up their “yard sale” and carrying skis, poles and pieces of their costume as they cross the finish line.
About The Crested Butte Al Johnson Ski Race
The Al Johnson Memorial Uphill/Downhill Telemark Ski Race (commonly referred to as just “The Al Johnson”) is so named because of a very brave and hearty soul who delivered mail throughout the winter on long wooden skis in these mountains over 100 years ago. This race has a long history in Crested Butte and first started in 1974. The race is a fundraiser for the Crested Butte Avalanche Center.
See Video of the Start of theThe Crested Butte Al Johnson Ski Race
From the Al Johnson Memorial Uphill/Downhill Telemark Ski Race website:
In the late 1800’s, Al Johnson was a mail carrier who traveled between various mining communities in the Crested Butte area. He was known for his courage on skis and held himself to the principle that “the mail must go through.” At roughly 9000 feet, the seventeen miles he traversed from Crystal to Crested Butte are some of the most treacherous winter terrain in the Gunnison Valley. Johnson would strap on mail sacks, which often weighed more than twenty-five pounds, and ski with this burden through snowy, rugged canyons and passes.
It should be noted that the skis of yesteryear used by Al Johnson were nine to fourteen feet in length, four inches wide, and one and a half inches thick. They resembled planks more than skis as we know them today. The wood was very thick under foot and tapered off at both ends. The tips were quite limber and thin so that they could be steamed and bent to the correct curve.
People ask me, “… What makes Crested Butte Special?”
Well the Crested Butte Al Johnson Ski Race Is one of those things. Even if you go watch and don’t participate you will appreciate the energy and fun – and you will laugh at the many costumes. It is another opportunity for those who desire to dress up in a costume, compete in a race or event, and have a fun party all at the same time! It is part of the culture and a fun part of Crested Butte.
There are so many things to experience here in Crested Butte from the world class alpine and Nordic skiing, the unbelievable variety of fly fishing, hiking, biking, an awesome golf course, and expansive recreational pursuits in the wilderness we are so close to… The charm of Crested Butte and the variety and quality of the performing arts, the festivals and events like Crested Butte Al Johnson Ski Race are what makes Crested Butte a special place for all.
For more info visit the Al Johnson Memorial Uphill/Downhill Telemark Ski Race website.
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