This year will be the 10th annual running of the North Routt Coureur des Bois -- now known as "Glide the Divide". Glide the Divide has been listed in the top 100 toughest sporting events in the world, and is perhaps the toughest, single-day ski race in the world! The Divide course has tested the endurance of Olympic medalists Johnny Spillane and Todd Lodwick as well as many other world-class skiers.
Perhaps you're wondering about the origins of the race and how it happened that this challenging event came to North Routt County, Colorado, in the shadow of Hahn's Peak.
In the early 90's a version of the Coureur des Bois was held from Paonia to Glenwood Springs. It included an overnight stay at the Electric Mountain Lodge. Current Glide the Divide founders, Dan Smilkstein and Dave Mark attended these events. Dan had an idea to hold this long point-to-point race in North Routt County. Dave Mark, a North Routt resident and then grooming chairman for the Steamboat Lake Snow Club, became Chief of Course. In 2003, 20-some racers lined up for the first unofficial North Routt Coureur des Bois. The first year of the race offered only a 90k course...slightly different from today's 90k. The result: everyone agreed that the race was too hard, but should definitely be held again.
Under Dan's leadership the event grew to its current prestige. From its start as a single 90k course, designed as a way for elite skiers to test their limits, the race expanded to offer a shorter, but equally challenging, 45k course, and eventually a 15k course for more casual skiers. In 2013, the race organizers, faced with changing weather patterns, decided to move the courses north to Columbine to ensure more consistent snow conditions. This change introduced new, longer courses making the race even more challenging. The race now offers 100k, 55k and 15k courses.
From the beginning, the race has been an "all volunteer" event. Many of the volunteers who worked this race from the beginning are still participating. It currently takes 50 to 60 volunteers on race day to pull off this logistically challenging event. The feed station crazies spend from early morning until evening out on the course. In North Routt style we treat it as a great party. The Wyoming line station headed by Kathleen and Scott Shaffnit began the costume tradition and each year the feed station teams vie to outdo each other with the zaniest, most eccentric costume themes. It's all part of the atmosphere of fun that's been a core element of the race from it's inception.
In 2011 sponsorship of the event was taken over by the Steamboat Lake Snow Club and the race was renamed "Glide the Divide" (partly because people had trouble spelling and pronouncing "Coureur des Bois" :-). The race organization is now lead by Bryan Heselbach, an experienced mountain biking race director. Bryan is still a hard core mountain biker and plans on riding the grueling Continental Divide race this year. Bryan has instituted many nice local touches to the race, and with a dedicated core team of organizers, continues to make positive changes designed to enhance the race experience for racers, observers and volunteers.
The North Routt community is more involved and dedicated than ever. Each year we look forward to welcoming back repeat competitors and introducing new competitors to the Glide the Divide experience -- not just the challenge of a great race, but also the western flavor and hospitality that exemplifies our community. It's our hope that competitors and their friends and family will join us for the entire race weekend: from the opening ceremonies the night before the race through the great end-of-season party with live music following the race.
Steamboat Lake Snow Club is a non-profit organization whose efforts are to ensure a quality winter recreation experience for visitors to Steamboat Lake State Park and the surrounding areas in the Routt National Forest. The Club is a member of the Colorado Snowmobile Association, while also addressing the needs of the non-motorized users of the State Park and National Forest.
The Club maintains an outstanding trail system -- grooming over 140 miles of trail every week in both the State Park and the National Forest -- using one of the most advanced groomers in the state. Most of the trail system is multi-use while certain sections are reserved for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. We have put together a detailed trail map of the area showing groomed trails, public roads and parking areas in or near Steamboat Lake State Park. The map is available for purchase at Steamboat Lake State Park Visitor's Center and at some local merchants. We also work with the county, state and federal agencies to promote a safe and enjoyable experience for all motorized and non-motorized trail users.
Steamboat Lake Snow Club welcomes all wintertime visitors and local residents of the North Routt region to join the Club, have a voice in the future of our back country and contribute to its efforts.
As you might imagine, grooming 140+ miles of trails doesn't come cheap! In 2011 the Club took over the running of Glide the Divide as one of its primary fundraising efforts.
Click here to learn more about the Steamboat Lake Snow Club.
It takes a large, dedicated team to plan and execute an event like Glide the Divide.
The year's Race Organizing Committee includes:
But, this committee doesn't function on its own. Standing behind them is an "all volunteer army" of enthusiastic "North Routties" who come together each year with ideas, energy and the commitment to make the year's Race the best yet.