The 2021 Spartan Ultra World Championship, a global obstacle course endurance event, is being held in the United States for the first time and has selected Mountain Village as the location in constructing a course in collaboration with Telski.
“Things are really progressing well. I think it’s exciting that the Ultra World Championship is going to be in the United States. In 2019, it took place in Sweden, and in 2017 and 2018 it took place in Iceland, so we’re the next location for this great race,” said Anton Benitez, Telluride Mountain Village Owners Association (TMVOA) president and CEO, who has worked with Spartan Race, Telski, Town of Mountain Village and U.S. Forest Service officials in planning the event to be held the weekend of Oct. 9-11.
The fourth annual ultra championship race will “challenge the mental and physical capacities of racers” who will have 24 hours to complete as many loops around a 10-mile course that will feature at least 25 obstacles — double that of previous formats — according to a Spartan Race news release. The male and female athletes who complete the most laps in the 24-hour time period will be crowned champions, while the top 10 in each category will share more than $35,000 in prize money.
“The Ultra World Championship is the most grueling event of the season,” Spartan founder and CEO Joe De Sena said in the release. “Twenty-four hours with no sleep, mountainous terrain and hours of complete darkness puts athletes to the ultimate test of strength and sheer will, and I can’t wait for it to unfold here in the U.S. for the first time, especially in a location as epic as Mountain Village and Telluride.”
Other than the championship race, the Spartan Beast, a 30-obstacle half marathon, will be held Oct. 9.
The reception since registration opened at the end of February has been “great,” explained Cherie Bortnick, Spartan’s director of business development, during a virtual Mountain Village special meeting Thursday afternoon.
“The majority of people who do this race, at least 60 percent, are located in the U.S. so they were happy that’s in their backyard,” she added.
Several Mountain Village council members raised questions about adequate parking, but that has been addressed in the race’s operating plan, according to those involved.
“I understand that they’ll utilize the gondola parking structure and other facilities that we have. For the team themselves, we’re working on parking for their rigs and whatnot,” said Zoe Dohnal, Mountain Village’s business development sustainability director. “ … The hope is, at least from a traveling perspective, that many of these people are going to be flying in, not driving, so shuttles will be a big key, and most will be using the gondola and will be walking traffic as well. From the demographic the team has shared, we feel like we’ll be able to handle the capacity of the driving participants.”
With an estimated 3,000 participants in the area for the races, Benitez said parking, as well as increasing shuttle and dial-a-ride services will be a focus moving forward.
“We’re continuing to work on that plan and the plan for parking in general,” he said. “ … Working with shuttle companies, specifically Telluride Express, to coordinate right of the bat for people buying tickets, you don’t need to rent a car, there’s going to be shuttles, special prices and or services will be available, here’s how we’re going to do that. That will minimize the vehicles here as well. This is a big one so it’s going to take some time to put it together, but we are working diligently on that.”
When someone signs up for a race, they’re required to provide demographical information, including where they’re from. Organizers can use that info in planning for potential driving traffic. Bortnick explained that different start times will minimize car clutter and most participants decide to make a mini-vacation out of the experience.
“What’s really great is as soon as somebody registers we know exactly where they’re coming from, so we’re able to see if they’re going to be flying. We know if they’re traveling over 300 miles they’re most likely to be flying in. As we get closer to the event, we’ll push out a survey to see if people plan to fly or drive, but we’ll also add incentives and make it very clear that these areas are VIP parking and give it a limited number of spaces. We can also cut off registration if we foresee there’s going to be more cars coming in. Our team is really amazing when it comes parking. Parking is usually just as important or more important than the course itself because people’s first experience is their parking experience with any event,” she said. “I foresee 80 percent are coming to stay and making a vacation out of it. Everybody’s start time is different. You have people coming in at 5 a.m. versus people coming in at 2 p.m., so you have a nice ebb and flow there. Even those driving 100 miles, they’re not getting up at 2 a.m., taking on a very difficult course, and turning around and driving home.”
Council members thanked everyone for their work and update on planning progress, as the event will extend the town’s summer season.
“It sounds like it’s going to be an incredible event, and we look forward to continuing to hear from you about how things are going, and any way we can help, we would love to because I think this is an important event to extend our season and give our businesses much more to do,” Mountain Village Mayor Pro Tem Dan Caton said.
Mountain Village Police Chief Chris Broady shared that he and Telluride Chief Marshal Josh Comte are signed up for the championship race, while other officers are tackling the Beast.
Several officials joked that council will have a team at the championship race, with Caton explaining that he’s not necessarily training for the Ultra, but the “sort of championships.”
To learn more or sign up for the event, visit spartan.com.