Steep but not deep

Saturday race takes trail runners up Mount Werner

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— Powder days are still a few months away, but a large group of people will nonetheless assemble at the base of Steamboat Ski Area on Saturday morning to race to the top of Thunderhead.

The Mount Werner Classic presents runners with a challenging trail run up either a five- or 12-mile course. Both races end at the top of the gondola.

The Mount Werner Classic is the ninth race in the Steamboat Springs Running Series. Series director John Chapman said the number of race participants will not be capped. Runners can register at 7:30 a.m. Saturday for $25 or until noon today at Christy Sports in Central Park Plaza for $20.

"It's a tough run," Chapman said. "But in a slow jog or a power hike, it's still a great workout for elite runners or someone just looking to get a fun workout."

Last year, Garett Graubins made it up the steep 12-mile course -- which gains 3,472 feet before heading down to the gondola area -- in one hour, 42 minutes. The five-mile run/walk gains 2,180 feet and finishes at the gondola without climbing up Storm Peak.

Race director Tasha Thrasher said both courses will be diverted from the previous years' routes to avoid construction for the new Sunshine Express lift.

Thrasher said about 50 people had registered for the race as of Thursday morning, but she thinks that number could double. More than 50 runners signed up on race day last year.

"This is the only hill climb up Mount Werner," Thrasher said. "It's a gorgeous run, and you get a free ride down the gondola."

Chapman reminded racers that although there will be aid stations on both courses, runners should think about taking their own water. Dogs that are joining their owners for the race must be on leashes. Race fans who want to watch the finish but don't want to climb the mountain must pay for their ride up the gondola.

The 12-mile run starts at 8 a.m. Saturday morning. The five-mile run and hike starts at 8:30 a.m. Visit www.runningseries.com for more details.

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