2017 Crow Pass Crossing canceled

Friday, July 14, 2017 - 10:28
  • Star file photo/Matt Tunseth Spectators Jenna Gruenstein, Meghan Kelly and Lindsay Van Gorkom, all of Anchorage, watch as 2011 Crow Pass Crossing competitor Tony Slatonbarker makes his way up the final stretch of trail near the Eagle River Nature Center on Saturday, July 23, 2011. Race officials said the 2017 event has been canceled due to concerns about safety along the 24-mile course from the Crow Pass trailhead near Girdwood to the nature center, which is located at the end of Eagle River Road.

The 2017 Crow Pass Crossing wilderness race has been canceled due to concerns about safety along the 24-mile mountain race from the Crow Pass trailhead near Girdwood to the Eagle River Nature Center.

Officials with the University of Alaska Anchorage — which organizes the event — are calling the decision “a pause” rather than a permanent shut-down of the 33-year-old race.

“This one-year pause will help ensure we can add the resources necessary to respond swiftly to incidents on the trail,” said race director Michael Friess, who also serves as the UAA Associate Athletic Director.

The decision was announced Friday, June 23.

Participants in the race must sign a liability waiver notorious for pointing out the hazards of the bare-bones course in frank, no-nonsense language.

“BEARS have been encountered in all previous races,” reads the waiver. “You should be knowledgeable about how to avoid skirmishes with bears.”

Although a press release announcing the suspension didn’t specifically cite bears as the reason for the announcement, Alaska trail races have come under heighten scrutiny in the wake of a fatal bear mauling that happened June 18 following the Robert Spurr Memorial Hill Climb on Bird Ridge. In that incident, a 16-year-old Anchorage boy was killed after finishing the race and attempting to return to the bottom of the mountain.

While the incident wasn’t officially cited, race officials have given participants the option of either getting a refund or having their $70 entry fees donated to the Eagle River Nature Center and Healthy Futures in honor of Patrick “Jack” Cooper, the boy who was killed.

Most of the race takes place in backcountry terrain, which makes communication difficult. There are no medical aid stations along the route, and participants are advised to prepare to deal with First Aid emergencies on their own.

Friess said race officials decided to take the precautionary step of suspending this year’s race to reevaluate safety procedures.

“The safety of runners and preserving the awesome beauty of the Crow Pass trail will continue to be our priorities in organizing this event,” he said.

The press release went on to say officials will be meeting with stakeholders from the mountain running community as well as public safety officials to “assess UAA’s race plan and determine augmentations to the safety, communication and medical response elements of this classic Alaska race.”

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