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Project GT: The Power of Four Race

Long walks, high winds, deep snow, and whiskey-pushing 7-year-olds in Aspen
posted: 03/05/2014
Racers on Snowmass

With the Elk Mountains Grand Traverse less than a month away, members of Team DadFit and Team Under Par decided to put aside their differences, join forces, and take on the notoriously difficult Audi Power of Four Ski-Mountaineering Race in Aspen, Colorado. Racing as Team Skiing Magazine, Sam and Kevin used the Power of Four to get a sense of the pain they’re in for come Grand Traverse time, and to try out some killer ski-mountaineering gear from La Sportiva.

The Power of Four is one of Colorado’s premiere ski-mountaineering races, spanning Aspen’s four ski areas: Snowmass, Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands, and Aspen Mountain. The full race is a grueling 26 miles and 12,000 feet of vertical gain. Worried they wouldn't be able to recover in time for Skiing’s annual ski test at Snowbird, Utah, which begins on March 10, Team Skiing Magazine opted for the slightly less daunting ‘recreational’ course. Called the Power of Two, it covers 17 miles and 8,000 feet of vertical gain between Aspen Highlands and Aspen Mountain.

All told, it took us 6:11:59, which was good enough for second place in the men’s recreational division. What follows is a quick and dirty recap from each of us.

For a photo recap of the entire weekend, click here.

Kevin’s Take: How I describe my first skimo experience: a huge, uncomfortable cake with painful frosting and two shakes of joyful sprinkles. But I got to eat the whole dang thing, I realized as I skitched down the front of Aspen Mountain on uncertain legs, my face covered in snot like those Olympic cross-country skiers. Surviving 17 miles of touring, 8,000 vertical feet of climbing, and 60 mile-per-hour winds on the top of Highland Bowl had me feeling both fragile and invincible at the same time. It’s an endorphin high packaged up nicely with complete physical exhaustion. Only after a Kobe beef burger, a beer, a shot of whiskey, more solid food, and one of the best powder days of the season on the day of the race did I realize the truly exceptional nature of my Power of Four experience. Hell I’d even consider doing it again. But you better ask me when I’ve got a bit of a buzz just to be sure.

Sam’s Take: This was a great opportunity to test my fitness level and get a sense of how I might handle an experience like the Elk. Along with Kevin and a few others from our office, I’ve been working out at the Alpine Training Center, a little gym here in Boulder, Colorado, that specializes in functional fitness for mountain-sport athletes. We’ll publish an interview with owner/coach/trainer Connie Sciolino later this week, but in a nutshell, I’d say the training has paid off. Sure, the Power of 2 was grueling and painful, but I don’t think I would have been able push through pain and discomfort like I did had I not been building ski-specific strength and endurance over the past six months. Nor would I have been able to recover as quickly and get up and bang out three Highland Bowl laps with Kevin the day after the race. The most surreal part of the race was arriving at the base of the Midnight Mines Road, after a 4,200-foot climb and an even bigger descent, where a seven-year-old girl pushed a flask of whiskey on us just before we began a 5-mile ascent up the back of Aspen Mountain.

Here's a video interview with Sam right after the whiskey shot, as he applies his skins for the five-mile Midnight Mines climb:

For a photo recap of the entire weekend, click here.

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