With running, biking, climbing- even fishing and archery- the Trail Running Summit was an experience...
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A low layer of clouds blanketed the Colorado sky, and the 12 of us took a break to appreciate the sun lighting up the far off peaks, and the colors of the fall trees surrounding us. We were running Crested Butte’s 401 trail—a sweet singletrack that climbs and swoops through trees, and meadows while offering views of the Elk Mountains. Though we’ve all become accustomed to appreciating our surroundings on a trail run, actually stopping to look around sometimes is totally worth it. It’s also a good time to regroup (and take a goofy group pic).
Last September, a handful of La Sportiva staff, four of La Sportiva’s Mountain Running® athletes, and four running media types gathered in the ‘Butte for a trail running retreat. It was the first of its kind for us, and we weren’t sure of how it’d unfold. We planned the weekend with the goal of connecting some of our great athletes with the media members, to showcase our upcoming product, to do a photo shoot with our athletes for spring catalogs, and to inspire ourselves in a way that only a trip like this can.
We chose Eleven Experience resorts, where we were able to take over the Taylor River Lodge as our basecamp for a few days and nights. Pulling into this place off of Taylor River Road is like passing through a fence to the coolest fort you ever imagined as a kid, a Never-never land of sorts—there’s even a teepee on property—but with high-end, luxury log cabins sprinkled throughout aspen and pine trees, and on the banks of the Taylor River.
Some of our group had individual cabins, private, complete with riverside porches that housed antique wooden rocking chairs. The rest of us stayed in larger group cabins, which were no less awesome. We had chef-prepared, farm-to-table meals in a communal cabin, adjacent to one of the coolest, fully stocked bars you've ever seen. This, next to a fully stocked trout fishing pond used for fly-fishing lessons. No, it didn’t suck one bit.
The first evening of introductions made it obvious that the group we’d invited would mesh just fine over the next few days. The smart ones in our group found the saline hot tub and heated pool, gazed out the floor-to-ceiling windows at the pines while we chatted about Ski-Mo and ultrarunning (Meredith!). Challenges to attempt flip-turns against Endless Pool jets, naturally, came next. This, before we really dug into the fully loaded coolers found every couple hundred feet on the lodge property. Some found the lit-at-dusk fire pits, and talked about life as a smokejumper (Kristina!)—though unrelated to the fire pits. Plans for a morning run were made.
Part of the beauty of Eleven resorts is that a stay at any of their worldwide properties includes guides for anything you want to do. Ours picked a 9-mile run on the 401 trail, and a dozen of us went for it, counting Sol the dog (Nico!). Aside from Sol, we were outfitted in pieces like the Andromeda Skirt and Sonic T-Shirt, with Akashas on-foot. Dressed in our colorful kits, we looked like a box of Jujubes. We were quite a sight, but we didn't see another person during our killer ramble on one of the best singletrack trails in Colorado, aside from some chipmunks and a few deer.
Back at the trailhead, our large group met up with a smaller group who had done a shorter run, and chatted about the upcoming ski season, nagging injuries and future climbing goals (Anton!).
We popped into an on-slope, Eleven Experience apartment for lunch and warmth, and to decide what was next. Options? Lounge back on property (SO tempting), climb or mountain bike. The group split, and guides took over.
Climbing granite in Taylor River Canyon, a couple athletes joined a few staffers and one journalist, and we put our multi-sport La Sportiva gear to the test on the rock. Anton showed his mountain-athlete versatility and Kristina impressed with strength and bravery. Meanwhile, one of us hit a nearby singletrack and ripped mach speeds on a mountain bike.
La Sportiva is rooted in the mountains, after all, not just on running trails but in the Italian Dolomites with all they have to offer, as our president Jonathan Lantz (who may have been the one on a mountain bike) shared with the media folks that night from behind the lodge’s bar. La Sportiva is a family-owned company, deeply proud of its roots and passionate about the mountains and the products we make, he shared. Speaking of product, we followed the company history chat with a product line discussion of Fall ‘16 and Spring ’17 footwear and apparel. (And the product sure looked good being backlit by a roaring fireplace and against the leather couches of the lodge).
This was a pretty cushy trip all around, most of the time, and for most of us. But at 5 a.m. one morning, our four athletes ran in tiny shorts and tanks in a light snowstorm on top of Cottonwood Pass (thanks, guys.) They made our Spring ’17 line shine for our current catalog.
The rest of the crew did things like lay on yoga mats in savasana and fall off a slack line before heading out on another group run. This time, we hit a different epic singletrack that included a section on the Colorado Trail. Every trail run, rock climb, mountain bike ride, and corner turned, was filtered by the orange and yellow glow of fall aspens leaves.
The second afternoon of the trip is when the Taylor River Lodge really started to feel like Never-never land. Some of us learned how to throw an axe at a giant wooden target, right next to a teepee. Others shot arrows from a bow. A couple people roped-up on a cliff across the river, and a handful of us either fly fished for the first time—again, thanks, Eleven Experience guides—or looked on the flowing Taylor River, knowing we had it good.
The final morning stunk, only because it was the final morning, and by that time (barring missing our families), no one wanted to leave.
Journalists did final interviews with athletes. Coffee was sipped, bags were packed, goodbyes were said. Yeah, this was a successful first media camp/trail running athlete summit. Can’t wait to do it again.
Photos: ©Joel Wolpert and Peter Koch