Crested Butte’s Pole Pedal Paddle Race Is Just Around the Corner

by Greg Colquitt | April 25, 2017

Crested Butte is at it again.

Already known for stupefying athletes (Emma Coburn, 2016 Steeplechase Bronze Medalist, is a CB native), mesmerizing endurance races (the 40-mile Grand Traverse Ski Mountaineering event that connects skiers between Aspen and Crested Butte up and over a difficult mountain pass), and just that good ole’ ski town mountain feel, Crested Butte, Colorado, with May fast approaching, keeps the stoke and adventurous spirit roaring.
Always on the final Sunday in April, Crested Butte hosts the annual Pole Pedal Paddle race, or 3P, that fires locals and visitors up about the warmer months ahead. As the name suggests, the race involves an uphill then downhill ski portion (Pole), a bike portion (Pedal), and finally a kayak portion (Paddle) along the mountain’s runoff path, paying homage to the melting snow and all that it brings.
In fact, that runoff probably impacts your life right now depending on where you live. Take a look at a map sometime and follow the streams and rivers from Colorado, especially from each side of the Continental Divide to their final resting place. For example, Crested Butte’s runoff rolls into the Slate, to the Gunnison, then to the Colorado River, and finally pours out into the Gulf of California.  You’ll be pretty amazed to see what your eyeballs see.
Okay cool, moving on. You might be thinking, come on CB, what about riding your horse to the small prop plane powered by an oversized hamster wheel that you fly to Denver and back? That’s a real challenge.

One day that may happen, but for those who want to take part in the race designed for mere mortals, here’s a quick breakdown of the race.

At 10am, racers hop on their skis outfitted for uphill travel and start making their way about halfway up the mountain to Windy Gap, which had to be extended because racers last year complained the course was too easy.
Once you’ve reached the top, it’s time to lock your heels in and make those glorious late April turns, but not too many because it’s a race after all. April turns in the Rockies are a crap shoot–you could rip Spring corn, wallow in slush, or float on bonafide pow–and the way things are looking on the weather, this year racers might be finding lots of fresh tracks on their way down.
After booking down the mountain, start taking off your skis and ski boots (thank God), and put on your far more comfortable bike shoes. The bike leg runs 27 miles toward Gunnison on a mostly downhill pitch to the kayak put-in spot where your craft will be waiting for you to make the final push.
And finally, from the put-in spot kayak approximately 4.5 miles through mostly Class I & II rapids (and one II+/III- rapid) to the Gunnison Whitewater Park for a glorious finish.

If this all sounds like a lot to handle, but still want to race, don’t panic! Along with entering as a sole participant, you have the option to sign up in a “Fun” category split up like a relay race. One person skis, another bikes, and another kayaks. You get the picture.
The race is happening this Sunday in Crested Butte! If you’re looking for a little Spring adventure, get your butte in gear and make it happen!
For more info and to sign up, head to
Happy Kayabikiing!

Featured Resorts

More from the Blog