The inaugural Father Dyer Postal Route ski mountaineering race took place last weekend in the mountains outside of Leadville. You might have to add this one to your calendar next season.
Seventeen teams of two including ourselves showed up to check out the new event which has the distinction of being the highest ski mountaineering course in North America. Topping out at 13,855 ft., on the summit of Dyer Mountain, it stood out from other popular “skimo” events that often stay primarily within ski area boundaries and may not ever involve any real ski mountaineering or actual summit ski descents.
At 22 miles in length and with 6,500 feet of vertical gain it isn’t the longest nor does it have the most climbing. But that allows for a relatively civilized 5am start and a more reasonable amount of time out on the course (we finished in 6:20). And don’t forget that Leadville is high, and so most of the effort put forth takes place above 11,000 feet which makes everything a little tougher.
The race is named in honor of John Lewis Dyer, a minister and postal carrier who crossed this range on skis to the mining camps in Alma and Leadville in the 1800’s. Conceived by Leadville locals as a benefit for the Leadville Trails Association, all profits go directly to winter trails maintenance and development in the area. The karmic effect of a charitable cause might deserve some credit for delivering near perfect weather on this first test run, dubbed “Year Zero” by the organizers. It was just a perfect day.
Race organizers acknowledged that in harsh conditions, which are often encountered in this part of the state, this course might require some changes. But they also kept open the idea that in future years, should conditions and permitting allow, they may consider actually expanding the course, possibly even incorporating the nearby 14er Mount Sherman.
It’s always novel to do new things, and the perfect weather contributed to the positive energy around the event, we had an awesome time, both on the course and at the pre and post-race events in town. We’ll definitely be back for this one next year. And that seemed to be the recurring conversation among all of friends at the finish, about seeing everyone next year.
For more info on the race, click here.