Every spring in Crested Butte the best of the local, talented, Telemark skiers participate in a race dedicated to Al Johnson. In the late 1800's, Al Johnson was a mail carrier who traveled between various mining communities in the Crested Butte area. He was known for his courage on skis and held himself to the principle that "the mail must go through." At roughly 9000 feet, the seventeen miles he traversed from Crystal to Crested Butte are some of the most treacherous winter terrain in the Gunnison Valley. Johnson would strap on mail sacks, which often weighed more than twenty-five pounds, and ski with this burden through snowy, rugged canyons and passes.
The race is a combination of up hill/downhill beginning with a mass start of approximately 200 men and women. The race course begins near the top of Mt. Crested Butte, climbs six hundred vertical feet to the top of a ridge, then plunges twelve hundred feet down through extreme skiing terrain. Following the start, there is only one control point - a gate at the top of the uphill section. After passing through this point, racers may choose any route to reach the finish gate which is located at the bottom of the "Last Steep." Another short uphill section brings racers to the finish line. A good many of the participants do this in costumes - some unimaginably difficult to ski in, let alone to manage the difficulty of the course.
The is the Hot Dog, complete with mustard, a fun home made costume.
The Gnome carried his feet in front.
The Flower in the Pot managed to keep the flower intact throughout the whole race, though climbing the last hill wasn't easy.
The Mad Hatter had more trouble with his hat, especially when climbing the hill to the finish
The Farmer followed.
The Cookie Monster was a hit, as he opened and closed his mouth.
Sponge Bob was one of the younger competitors.
But can you imagine skiing a steep hill in a Truck?
Or paddling your own Canoe?
Though some members of the Water Ballet lost their water, they still earned a 10.