Colorado Nordic fans are gearing up for the 31st Annual Alley Loop Nordic Marathon set to take place on February 4, 2017. We caught up with Drew Holbrook, Marketing Director at Crested Butte Nordic, to learn more about this unique cross country ski race with a course that runs right through downtown Crested Butte.
1. What is the Alley Loop?
The Alley Loop is Colorado’s biggest cross country ski race and an American Birkebeiner qualifier. The race is put on by Crested Butte Nordic, which happens to be the Nordic Ski Capital of Colorado.
2. What makes this race so unique?
The race is unique for three reasons: the course, the people, and the spirit. The course starts, finishes, and passes through the heart of downtown Crested Butte, winding around on snow covered streets, narrow alleys, and one lane bridges. It then heads out onto the scenic nordic trails around Crested Butte. Most people that attend the race dress up in costumes, even some of the racers. The whole town comes out to cheer you on as you go by. The race has a different spirit than any other nordic ski race. In a sport that can often be overly serious, the Alley Loop is just about getting out there and having a good time. Some of the top racers in the country come out for the event but they have to pass people in costume who barely know how to ski in order to get to the finish line.
3. How many years has Alley Loop been taking place in Crested Butte?
The Alley Loop will be turning 31 this February. It was 31 years ago that a small group of people who made up the Crested Butte Nordic Council thought that it would be cool to have a race that went through town.
4. Who makes this race possible?
It is a lot of work to put on an event like this and it takes a whole community to pull it off. Business owners and residents allow us to fill their streets and alleys with snow. They have to move their cars and their homes and businesses can only be reached on foot. The Town of Crested Butte dedicates a huge amount of resources to fill the streets with snow before the event. Then, they close off a portion of town to cars while the event is going on. The volunteers make it all happen when the event starts. It takes about 60 volunteers to pull the event off. They distribute bibs to 700 racers, stop traffic in town so that racers can pass through, shovel snow onto the streets, man aid stations; the list is endless.
5. What is the most outrageous costume you’ve seen a participant in?
There are too many to just name one. One year Superman won the main event: the 42K skate race. Trump did pretty well last year too. The group costumes really shine through though: oompa loompas, garden gnomes, minions, pool balls, the Keystone XL Pipeline; you name it.
6. What is the Pub-Ski?
The Alley Loop Pub Ski is a pub crawl on skis. The night before the race, the main street, Elk Avenue, is filled with snow so people take advantage of it by skiing from bar to bar. They get free drinks and play games to score points. Most of the people dress up in costume. It’s a pretty good time and quite the scene.
7. How can we sign up?
You can sign up at cbnordic.org.
8. Can you share any other fun facts with us about this race or the event weekend?
The event may seem like a wacky locals party, and it is. But, it’s also a pretty big deal as far as nordic races go. We introduced a $5,000 cash purse last year and got some world-class competitors from Europe who are skiing for American colleges. Last year, we saw times that were faster than we ever thought possible. It was a whole new level of racing. The best part is that these Germans and Norwegians just loved the kookiness of the event. They were racing for big bucks but just couldn’t get over the fact that they had to blow by all of these costume-clad kooks. They hadn’t ever seen anything like it.
Check out this beautiful video of past Alley Loop races through the town of Crested Butte: https://vimeo.com/171855385, and get hyped for this year’s race by staying tuned to www.instagram.com/elevationout this week for more beautiful images from the Crested Butte Nordic Center of this funky small town race.
Crested Butte Nordic, founded in 1987, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a mission to provide individuals of all ages and abilities the opportunity to learn, enjoy, and improve in the sports of Nordic skiing and snowshoeing. We maintain over 50 kilometers of meticulously groomed trails around the Town of Crested Butte and offer complete ski and snowshoe rental packages as well as private lessons, clinics, tours, and fine yurt dining. Our Nordic Center and trailheads are within walking distance from all of Crested Butte’s restaurants and lodgings.