GUNNISON-CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — The 25th annual Alley Loop Nordic Marathon on Feb. 5 not only is the highest-altitude Nordic marathon in the United States, it reflects the athletic and free-spirited nature of Crested Butte, Colo. This American Birkebeiner qualifying race starts and finishes in the heart of Crested Butte on Elk Avenue (a National Historic District since 1974) and winds its way through streets, alleyways and Nordic trail system located on the outskirts of this historic mining town.
The Alley Loop, also a Colorado Cup Series Race, embraces all abilities and ages competing on skate or classic skis. Course lengths of 1.5K, 3K, 5K, 10K, 21K and 42K are offered, with the 1.5K and 3K races beginning at 9:30 a.m. and the rest starting at intervals beginning at 10 a.m. New for this year is a 42K classic division that begins at 9 a.m.
While the Alley Loop has a serious side as a qualifier for the American Birkebeiner, North America’s largest cross-country ski marathon, locals host parties on their decks to watch racers from across the country and survey the attire of less-serious competitors. Be on the lookout for pirates, ladybugs, Vikings, lizards, fairies, alley cats, disco kings and queens. In honor of the Alley Loop’s 25th anniversary, organizers are asking competitors to consider wearing silver.
Best costume winners will have to be dressed in lots of silver in fact.
New Belgium Brewing’s Taste of the Alley Beer Garden on the deck of the Brick Oven also offers a great spot to watch the action and socialize from noon to 4 p.m. An awards ceremony will be held at Maxwells across the street at 4 p.m.
Prizes are awarded at a post-race ceremony to the overall winners and to the “The Croatian” (the lucky racer who finishes with the exact median race time), and there’s an abundance of raffle prizes for racers and volunteers. Visit www.cbnordic.org for race information and online registration instructions or call (970) 349-1707.
Crested Butte Nordic Center Facts
The Crested Butte Nordic Center is a full-service cross-country ski center providing lessons and complete rental packages for skate and classical skiing as well as guided backcountry, moonlight, and lunch tours, ice skating, snowshoeing, and sledding. The Nordic Center maintains more than 50 kilometers of groomed trails that meander through and around Crested Butte, including the new 5K North Village Loop on Snodgrass Mountain in partnership with Crested Butte Mountain Resort and the new Mike’s Mile that follows the old railroad grade in the Slate Rover Valley and connects the Lower Loop to the Gunsight Pass Bridge
Located in the heart of town at Second Street and Whiterock, the Nordic Center will be open for the season from Nov. 20, 2010 – April 3, 2011 and is connected to Crested Butte Mountain Resort and various stops in Crested Butte by a free shuttle bus. For more information about the Crested Butte Nordic Center and its winter 2010/2011 calendar of events, visit www.cbnordic.org.
Gunnison County is home to a plethora of Nordic talent such as 2006 Olympian Rebecca Dussault; Ingrid Butts, former Olympian and 1991 American Birkebeiner champion; Kendall Butts, former Olympic coach and Ross Matlock, PSIA examiner and demo team member.
Visitor Information & Personalized Vacation Packages
To find out more about Gunnison County or to book personalized vacation packages, call the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association’s toll-free line, (800) 814-8893, or visit www.GunnisonCrestedButte.com. Find the Tourism Association on Facebook at www.facebook.com/gcbta or follow us on www.twitter.com/gcbta.
The Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport is served year-round by United Airlines with flights from Denver and during the winter season by American Airlines and Continental Airlines.
About Gunnison-Crested Butte, Colorado
Gunnison-Crested Butte is nestled among almost two million acres of pristine wilderness in southwest Colorado. Winter sports enthusiasts know the area for its world-class alpine skiing and snowboarding at Crested Butte Mountain Resort, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice fishing. Gunnison-Crested Butte is also a haven for outdoor summer activities. In the warmer months, visitors can choose from recreational activities such as hiking, climbing, mountain biking, boating, whitewater rafting, kayaking, fly-fishing, camping and horseback riding. Year-round visitors enjoy distinctive restaurants, unique shops and stimulating cultural opportunities, and have a wide range of lodging options — from rustic inns to guest cabins and bed-and-breakfasts to full-service resort hotels.
Gunnison, county seat and a real western town, is home to the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport, Gunnison Whitewater Park, Gunnison Valley Observatory, Pioneer Museum and Western State College, which offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in liberal arts and sciences and pre-professional fields. Both Crested Butte and Gunnison have thriving historic central business districts packed with shopping and dining opportunities.
Recognized as the “Official Wildflower Capital of Colorado” by the Colorado Legislature and one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “Dozen Distinctive Destinations” in 2008, Crested Butte is 28 miles from Gunnison and the site of rich mining, ranching and skiing heritage and home to the Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum and Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. Only three miles up the road is the resort village of Mt. Crested Butte, home to the ski area, an active base area, the area’s conference center, and outstanding hiking and biking trails.
Marble is located in the Upper Crystal River Valley along the Elk Mountains and is the gateway to nearby Crystal, home to one of the most photographed mill sites in the country. Marble has seven sites on the National Register of Historic Places and is the location of the Yule Marble Quarry.
In Gunnison County, visitors will find the Curecanti National Recreation Area, where dinosaur fossils were recently discovered; the Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado’s largest body of water and home to the largest Kokanee salmon fishery in the United States; and The Black Canyon of the Gunnison, one of our country’s newest national parks. Gunnison County includes the quaint and historic towns of Pitkin, Gothic, Tin Cup, Marble, Powderhorn, Almont and Crystal, plus the better-known communities of Gunnison, Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte. Gunnison County is part of the West Elk Loop and Silver Thread Scenic & Historic Byways.