Youngest Extreme Skiers in Colorado
do Holy Cross Couloir
On July 1st, 2005 the Kloser family of Vail made a high camp below Mount of the Holy Cross, a Colorado 14er known for its easterly cross shaped feature consisting of a couloir and horizontal snowfield.

The next day, Mike Kloser and his progeny, Heidi, age 12, and Christian, age 11, climbed and backcountry skied the Cross couloir, one of Colorado’s most well known extreme ski routes (IV D11 R3). Even at their early age, Mike’s well prepared team had years of practice under their boots. They’d previously climbed numerous 14ers, were well versed in snow climbing techniques such as self-arrest, and as ski-town residents have the requisite downhill skills for just about any descent. While skiing such terrain is not for everyone (or every family), it’s gratifying to see the practice and preparation that led up to the Kloser’s descent. I’ve always advocated taking a careful and serious approach to
our Colorado 14ers, nice to see the Klosers doing the same — and reaping the rewards.

Mike Kloser is one of Colorado’s most gifted athletes, he’s known for his success in endurance sports and is a member of the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.

According to Kloser’s wife Emily, who was also along on the trip (but didn’t ski):

On Friday evening July 1st, we hiked in and camped at tree line just below Bowl of Tears. Heidi, age 12, and Christian, age 11, carried all their own equipment in on the sometimes tedious and mosquito
ridden climb. We set out at 6 am July 2nd for the Cross. Two teams were ahead of us but Mike picked a great route and we were now leading the groups. At 7:42 we arrived at the bottom of the Cross Couloir. Mike rigged some safety ropes across the couloir. Two climbers set out at 7:55, then Mike, Heidi and Christian and two other climbers began the ascent at 8:05. The kids, with their skis on their backs, crampons on boots and ice axes in hand, passed the climbers ahead and climbed out of the couloir right at 9:00am. I waited at the ski out since I recently had ACL surgery (and was relieved that I had an excuse not to ski the Cross.)

With the snow condition as close to perfect as they get for this time of year, the three clicked in to their bindings and began the ski. After stopping several times so dad could get more photos, they were back down to my location in the couloir. The first words from Heidi were, "Let’s go do it again!"

On a serious note: This was not a whim. Mike had carefully planned this for years. The kids have practiced their "self-arrest" skills on steep snow fields for years. They have climbed 30 of the 14ers.
They know how to move quickly and efficiently on talus and steep slopes. They are both very solid and accomplished skiers. And most importantly, it was something they wanted to do.

Mount of the Holy Cross, Cross Couloir is the vertical slot, lower cliff portion is not usually skied though it fills in during some years. Image from Dawson’s Guide to Colorado’s Fourteeners. 

Once ahead, there’s no slowing down

Emily and CindyASPEN — September 2007. They had only been running for a few miles and had almost five full days of racing across 120 miles and up thousands of feet ahead of them when Emily Kloser and Cindy Crawford changed their game plan.

“We were doing this to do something fun and thought we’d be in the middle of the pack,” Crawford said. “When we hit the Beaver Creek parking lot they said, ‘OK, you’re in first,’ we thought, ‘OK, there goes that.’”

“That switch I didn’t want turned back on got turned back on right away,” Kloser said. “And it was all over then.”

For the remainder of the first TransRockies Run, the Beaver Creek team of Kloser and Crawford maintained the first-place position and arrived in Aspen on Thursday afternoon with almost an hour edge in the overall time on the competition.

“We never imagined coming we could win,” Crawford said. “We did one really good training thing together prior to coming in: the four-pass loop in Aspen. It was an eight-hour day, and it was good because we realized then that Emily was the tougher one mentally, and it helped us realize what we had to do for each other to get through it. That (day) was really hard, and we knew we could do these long days.”

Kloser, who is quite familiar with weeklong endurance races through her world-champion adventure-racing husband, Mike, got a chance to show off her ability.

“Mike tells me how strong I am when we run together, but I thought it was because he wanted me to make him a good dinner,” Kloser joked. “I retired so many years ago, I didn’t know what to expect.”

After spotting the opportunity to thrive, Kloser pushed the team through familiar terrain to build a 15-minute lead after the first day.

“I knew the Game Creek Trail,” Kloser said. “And I thought we could put time on and hold a lead for a couple of days. After day two, we had a 33-minute lead, and we tried to add to it.”

Crawford, who was also doing an endurance race for the first time — she noted that both she and Kloser raised their hands during an after-race function at night when someone asked who had never run the distance of a marathon before — was glad to have raced and won.

“I’m feeling really good,” Crawford said. “I conquered a lot. One day, I wanted to walk really bad, and I knew Emily didn’t want to — mentally I had to keep following her shoes.”

Emily and Cindy Finish 2007

In-race inspiration
Running up steep pitches through snow and toward seemingly endless landmarks can be a physically and mentally tough task. But Kloser and Crawford found plenty of things to keep them moving.

“I dedicated the race to Rebecca Yarberry’s memory,” Kloser said of the Vail resident who died in a car accident Monday. “Dr. Yarberry has been an unbelievable friend. It was really hard not to go home because we have a tremendous love for him in our family.”

Each night after racing, the competitors gathered at campsites the race organizers set up for food, a banquet and slide show and video presentations.

“It really inspired you,” Crawford said of the videos and slide shows. “On the first two days, you wonder how you are going to do it every day. But I said I can do it. It was really cool that the photographers would go along the whole route and even hide in the trees. The people who coordinated the race did an amazing job.”

Crawford endured several blisters, while Kloser didn’t let a rolled ankle slow her down much for the final six miles of the race.

“I wasn’t going think about it until the finish line and I took the shoe off and it was swollen,” Kloser said. “I wasn’t going to give up then even if I was going to damage it because I thought, ‘By golly, we’ve gotten this far.’”

Along the way, both racers had plenty of support — Beaver Creek Ski Patrol, Eagle County Paramedics and family. Kloser’s husband, Mike, who was taking care of the kids for the week, stopped by for support and some advice.

“At one turn, Mike was there shouting, ‘Do you know where (their son) Christian’s binder is?’” Kloser said. “These two other girls couldn’t stop laughing. It was such a dad comment. But Mike was fantastic — he owed me a few. I’m really happy being in the role I have in the family, but it’s nice to show that I can do something. I don’t have a problem going back to being Mrs. Kloser and Heidi (her daughter) and Christian’s mom.”

Crawford, who when asked about doing the race again said, “We’ll talk about that later,” isn’t quite ready to let her legs rest as she’s competing in the Colorado Relay with her husband, Rob, today.