From Crested Butte to Aspen, the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse is a 39 mile hardcore backcountry adventure with over 6,000 feet of vertical. The cross country ski route can take two days and has plenty of avalanche danger. There is an annual race in late March.
The race begins in the town of Crested Butte at the Community School at midnight. From the starting line racers will follow a marked course across the meadows of the Town Ranch, pick up the old upper loop trail, skirt along Hunter Hill Road, drop into the T-Bar hill, and parade through the base area below the Silver Queen Lift. After the parade, the racers will climb up and over the ski area to the bottom of the East River lift, race will cross the East River Valley (private property; not accessible before or after the race!), turn downstream (right), and head towards Brush Creek Road. At Brush Creek Road the race turns "left" towards the next check point at Death Pass.
The course follows Brush Creek Road until it turns onto East Brush Creek, FS Trail 400. The race climbs Trail 400 up past the Friends Hut (aid station nearby) and through Star Pass. Star Pass is the second and last mandatory time cut-off point. Racers who haven't made it beyond this point at a time (usually around 8:00 a.m.) will be required to return to Crested Butte. The official time will be determined the day before the race and based on the avalanche safety just beyond the pass.
From Star Pass the course continues to Taylor Pass on FS Trail 761.A and then along the Richmond Hill Road (FS 123) to the Barnard Hut. At the Barnard Hut, there will be a mandatory medical check and 10-minute stopover. From the Barnard Hut the race will stay on Richmond Hill Road (traveling north) until reaching the Aspen Mountain Ski Area at the Sun Deck (top of the Gondola). Racers will then ski down Aspen Mountain on the Spar Gulch Run to the finish line at the bottom of the Gondola.
Except through the private property at the beginning of the course in Crested Butte, the Elk Mountains Grand Traverse course will not be marked in any substantial way.
Note: the trail map shows the high route which is usually used in low avalanche conditions. The race coordinators will provide route guidance in adverse avalanche conditions.
Overall, Elk Mountain Grand Traverse is the 2nd most popular cross country ski area of all 58 Nordic ski destinations in Colorado.