High Country run still needs permit | VailDaily.com

High Country run still needs permit

Janet Urquhart
Vail CO, Colorado

Organizers of the inaugural TransRockies Run are signing up participants for a six-day tour from Beaver Creek to Aspen, but the event has yet to win U.S. Forest Service approval.

Already, the route has been tweaked, as the Forest Service works with TransRockies to establish a route that gives runners a challenging run through the Colorado High Country in all its autumn splendor, but won’t wreak havoc on the backcountry’s terrain.

At most, 300 runners plus support staff could be covering 125 miles through what event promoters call “the heart of the White River and San Isabel National Forests.”

The run will take participants on a mix of singletrack and forest roads, though the route does not enter any delicate wilderness areas, where only foot traffic and horseback riding is permitted. It includes nearly 25,000 feet of overall elevation gain and a top elevation of 12,000 feet.

The Eagle-Holy Cross District of the Forest Service is reviewing the TransRockies permit application, refining the route and camping sites for the Sept. 16-21 event, a spokesman at the district office said.

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“There’s no guarantee, I guess, that the event will run until they have a permit, so I guess the TransRockies is advertising at its own risk,” said Sally Spaulding, Forest Service public information officer in Glenwood Springs.

After the Forest Service is satisfied its concerns have been addressed, the public will have the chance to comment ” probably in May, she said.

“There are a number of hurdles for them to go through,” Spaulding said. But, she added, “I don’t think anybody sees any red flags at this point.”

It’s understandable that organizers need to move ahead with planning and registration while the review is under way, she said.

“We’re quite confident that we’re going to get a permit,” said Aaron McConnell, director of events for TransRockies, Inc. “I know that they [the Forest Service] have to do their due diligence.”

Runners may register now, according to McConnell, but he said he didn’t know exactly how many participants have signed up so far. Five countries are represented among the early registrants, he said.

The field of runners is capped at 150 teams of two, and participation is not cheap ” $1,250 per person ($2,500 per team), due June 1, according to the event’s Web site. It’s $5,300 per team for a limited number of “expedition” packages that include a motor home that TransRockies staff will rent and drive from stage to stage for participants.

The final route is likely to involve camping at sites the Forest Service deems appropriate, plus overnight stays in Leadville and Minturn, McConnell said.

There will be at least 40 to 50 members of a support staff traveling with the event, including medical personnel and staff to help direct the runners on the trail, he said. Racers will be housed and fed each night, and treated to hot showers, according to the TransRockies Run Web site, http://www.transrockies.com.

The run will end in Aspen, though the original proposal ” to bring participants into town down Smuggler Mountain Road ” is likely to be revised, McConnell said.

Right now, it appears participants will drop into Lenado and then head up the ridge separating the Woody Creek and Hunter Creek valleys, making their final descent on the Sunnyside Trail, he said. But, those details are ultimately up to the Forest Service.

While the permit is in the hands of the Forest Service, no one controls the biggest factor ” the weather. Participants could enjoy glorious bluebird days at the height of the autumn colors, or they could see snow.

Last year, an early season snowstorm forced the first cancellation of Aspen’s annual Golden Leaf Classic half-marathon in the event’s history. The TransRockies Run concludes the day before this year’s Golden Leaf.

“If we had really deep snow, we might have to have some alterations,” McConnell said. “But in most cases, it will go, rain or shine.”

TransRockies also runs a multiday mountain biking event in Canada, now in its sixth year, as well as a TransAlpine Run and TransAlps mountain biking race in Europe.

“We were looking for a North American venue because of the success of our European running event,” McConnell said.

Organizers settled on Colorado for its mountain setting and the accessibility of the route, he said.

Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com.

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