One of the country’s toughest races returns to Big Sky

By Joseph T. O’Connor Explore Big Sky Managing Editor

BIG SKY – The Rut 50K ultramarathon is a bone-jarring, high-altitude endurance race that leads runners along single-track trails, up steep talus fields and along the Headwaters’ technical ridgelines. Runners will even summit and descend 11,166-foot Lone Mountain.

Held Sept. 12-13 at Big Sky Resort, the second annual Rut includes a 50K, 12K and new in 2014, the Vertical Kilometer, a 1,000-meter climb in less than five kilometers.

The Rut 50K is this year’s Sky Runner World Series Ultra Final in a collection of international races, with venues including the Italian Dolomites, the Swiss and French Alps, the Canary Islands, and Utah’s Wasatch Mountains. Big Sky is the only U.S. venue for the 2014 World Series Vertical Kilometer endurance race.

Runners in the 50K will gain more than 10,000 feet in elevation over approximately 3,600 feet and race coordinators Mike Foote and Mike Wolfe say the race is among the most difficult in the nation.

“We designed the Rut 50K to be as technical and challenging as [what] you would experience on a mountain course in Europe,” Wolfe told EBS before last year’s race. “We have mountains in Montana that rival any others in the world.”

The Rut, named for the elk mating season that occurs around this time each year, is drawing some of the most accomplished ultramarathon runners in the world, and title sponsor Solomon is bringing both its international race team and its U.S. team to Big Sky.

“We more than doubled our runners from last year,” said Lyndsey Owens, marketing director for Big Sky Resort, noting that all races are sold out with nearly 1,200 participants.

Racers will be competing on the terrain that made Big Sky famous in the skiing world and is more technical than many endurance races. “It’s not a pine needle-covered single track in all places,” Owens said, referring to the steep talus slopes runners will have to negotiate. “It’s nuts.”

Big Sky Resort will be running its Swift Current lift for spectators beginning at 8 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, and is offering a special rate for its Lone Peak Expedition shuttle to the summit. Spectators interested in getting a view from the top via Lone Peak Expedition can book timeslots by calling Big Sky Resort Basecamp at (406) 995-5769.