NEWS RELEASE: Team “NAO” takes first place in 26-mile ski mountaineering race

Northern Arizona Orthopaedics, a sponsoring organization for local sports, helped send two Flagstaff athletes to Aspen, Colo. to win the Audi Power of Four Race in the Aspen Snowmass mountains. Elite athletes, BCloseup_KnechtPowerof4rian Tinder and Kristi Knecht, swept first place with 5:51:01, 41 minutes ahead of the second-place winners in the Coed Division.

The Audie Power of Four (Q4) is one of the largest ski mountaineering races in North America, and incorporates the four major summits around the Aspen-Snowmass resorts. With a total elevation gain of 11,000 ft, a course of more than 24 miles on terrain in the range of 11,000 – 13,000 feet elevation, the endurance race is one of the most challenging in the country, testing the limits and skills of athletes. In this unique race, teams must climb with “skins” (grippy, removable ski bottoms on skis with bindings that release at the ankle) and ski down.  Teams must finish within 10 seconds of each other on the uphill and 5 seconds of each other on the downhill portions.

A Flagstaff local since childhood, Kristi Knecht has always been active outdoors. She began to get noticed in the elite running scene recently with multiple endurance race wins. In Oct, 2015, Kristi took Powerof4_1second in the Flagstaff Sky Race, a 39K (24.2 mi) trail run on some of the most technical terrain in the higher elevations of the San Francisco Peaks and Kachina Wilderness with 8,000 feet of climbing. Her time was 5:05.  In last year’s Imogene Pass Run (her first Imogene ever) Kristi took first in her age group, with a time of 3:00:44. And just last month, she dominated the Agassiz Uphill climb coming in 15 whole minutes before the second place women’s finisher. Kristi chose Brian Tinder, a professional competitive ultra-trail runner from Flagstaff (and now dear friend) to be her partner in the Q4 race.

“The race started at 6 a.m., in the dark and was a hard sprint for most of the front runners, but we managed to hang on to the front pack and find our own rhythm as the rest of the pack thinned out,” said Kristi. “The first ascent put us at the top of Snowmass with an icy descent in and out of the trees on an exposed knife-edge ridgeline that had us wondering what we had gotten ourselves into. The rest of the race proved to be some of the best experiences in one of the most beautiful high-alpine environments you could imagine.”

“NAO’s contribution to sponsoring our team made it possible to pursue this race with full commitment and we achieved our goal,” continued Kristi. “We are so grateful for this experience and for NAO’s contribution to helping it become a reality.”

It is important for Northern Arizona Orthopaedics to continue to promote athleticism in our community and more importantly, support those who inspire others to reach for their health goals. We are very proud of Brian and Kristi for their accomplishment!

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