Tomorrow's Butch Cassidy Chase, hosted by the Telluride Nordic Association, will be held in the spirit of the same charismatic thief, but on Nordic skis instead of horses.
"The last documented race I can find was in 1993," said Midnite Scholtes, member of the Telluride Nordic Association and event co-chair. The Chase originated in the mid 1980s when cross-country skiing was experiencing a popularity boom in Telluride. The race "kind of died out as Nordic started to take a back seat" to other winter sports, said Scholtes. But Telluride's interest in Nordic skiing has revived recently.
"We've had a resurgence in interest this year," said Scholtes, who works at the Telluride Nordic Center in Town Park and gives cross-country ski lessons. He credited much of that interest to older skiers tired of taking a pounding on the mountain. A second group of new Nordic skiers comes from the other end of the age spectrum, with local middle and high school students participating in a Nordic P.E. class.
Scholtes anticipates the Butch Cassidy Chase will draw in athletes from around the region, with four "really good out of town racers" already signed up. The Chase will take place at privately owned Faraway Ranch, located 15 miles outside of Telluride on Wilson Mesa. The Telluride Nordic Association leases land at the ranch during the winter, grooming over 10 km of trails. Sitting at an elevation of 9,500 feet, the scenery is spectacular.
Three races will be held on Saturday, starting with the Sundance Kids Race, a 3 km loop. The Etta Place Novice Race will follow, making a 5 km loop. The main event, the Butch Cassidy Chase, will follow the same course as the Etta Place race, but three times, making it a 15 km race.
Scholtes called Faraway Ranch an ideal place for the race. "The track at Faraway is groomed by a piston-bully," he said. "It's a top-notch cat that lays a nice track that is firm and wide."
The race is a freestyle event, meaning participants can use either the classic or skate skiing technique. "Skate skiing is generally faster," said Scholtes, who compared the two techniques to a canoe racing a motorboat. "I expect 90 percent of the participants will be skate skiing."
The Nordic Association has had quite a bit of interest from regional athletes, but Scholtes said the ultimate turnout would depend on the weather. "There is a possibility of snow on Saturday," he said. "That could hinder participation."
The parking at Faraway Ranch is limited, so the Nordic Association is providing a shuttle from the turn-off to the ranch to the course. People should be sure to take everything they need for the race on the shuttle as the parking is over a mile away from the course.
The race entry fee includes a goody bag and a ticket to the post race meal provided by La Cocina de Luz. Spectators will be able to purchase food and drinks at the finish line.
The Butch Cassidy Chase is an invitational event, with bib pick-up and final registration at Faraway Ranch tomorrow morning. Racers are encouraged to arrive early to give themselves plenty of time to register and get to the starting line, which is several hundred yards uphill from the end of the road.
For more information on the race, lodging or anticipated conditions, contact the Telluride Nordic Center at 970/728-1144. Directions to Faraway Ranch can be found on the Nordic Center's website, www.telluridetrails.com.