By Gordy Megroz By Gordy Megroz | August 5, 2022 | People Lifestyle
From bad luck to the winner's circle, Caroline Tory and Jordan Gaston team up for success.
Caroline Tory leads a group of skiers up Snowmass during the first climb of Power of Four.
Astring of bad luck led to Caroline Tory and Jordan Gaston teaming up for the 2022 Audi Power of Four ski mountaineering race. After more bad luck during the race and a photo finish, they were the event’s unlikely winners.
Two weeks before Caroline Tory, 32, was to race her fifth Audi Power of Four ski mountaineering race—an annual event in which athletes spend the day skinning up and descending 24 miles of terrain around the Aspen ski areas—her partner thought he might need to pull out. Tory had competed with her sister Sarah in each previous race, finishing second in the women’s open event a year earlier. For the 2022 race, she was looking to shake things up, teaming up with her boyfriend, Bucky Schafer, and competing in the coed division. But Schafer came down with some health issues (he’s fine now) and would likely be unable to compete.
Caroline Tory packs up her pack at the finish of Power of Four
Kristin Layne, Tory and Jordan Gaston embrace at the finish line at the bottom of Aspen Mountain right after the race.
Her sister was out too. A week earlier, Sarah had broken her foot during a climbing accident in Mexico (she’s also recovered). But Tory, who works as a managing director for the Aspen Institute, was determined to race. One of the Roaring Fork Valley’s more prominent athletes—you can usually find her winning mountain bike races or linking up peaks during all-day ski tours— Tory counts the Power of Four as her favorite race, and missing it would be heartbreaking.
The same couldn’t be said of Jordan Gaston. Gaston, 34, is known around the Roaring Fork Valley as a phenomenal athlete, but she generally leaves the competing to her husband, Pete, and his twin brother, John, who’ve partnered to win the Power of Four twice (John has won the race eight other times with other partners). That said, Tory knew that if Gaston was willing to partner with her—and able to find a babysitter for her toddler daughter—they’d be able to turn in a solid performance. “I’ve done a bunch of long adventures with her before, so I know that she’s really tough,” says Tory. “And she’s a really good downhill skier.”
At a birthday party two weeks before the race, after some fondue and wine, Tory popped the question. “OK,” Gaston said. “I’ll do it with you if Bucky definitely can’t.”
Jordan Gaston, gloveless and smiling, makes the initial ascent of Snowmass.
The next morning Tory texted Gaston. “Remember when you said you’d do Power of Four with me?” she wrote.
Gaston responded with laughter and an expletive. “I better start training,” she wrote.
A week later, on Feb. 26, Schafer was officially out, and Tory and Gaston went on their first—and only—training mission, a 16-mile ski tour that took them over key parts of the course, including up and down Aspen Highlands Bowl and Midnight Mine, a steep, long slog that many consider the crux of the race. “The training day was fun,” says Gaston. “But I got some pretty bad blisters.”
On March 5, with her feet taped up, Gaston and Tory drove to Snowmass for the 6AM start. After getting geared up, they promptly lost each other. “I had to go to the bathroom,” says Gaston. “And when I came out, it was dark and there were 200 people, so I couldn’t find Caroline.” After several minutes of searching, the two were reunited at the start line, where Gaston made another painful realization: She’d forgotten her gloves in the bathroom.
Caroline Tory in the finish at Aspen Mountain right after the race.
Since the start gun was about to go off, there was no time to retrieve them, so off the duo went, a gloveless Gaston leading Tory up Snowmass (teammates must be within 10 seconds of each other on uphills and five seconds of each other on the downhill portions). With the temperature in the 20s, Gaston’s hands froze. “I couldn’t grip my poles on the traverse from Snowmass to Buttermilk,” says Gaston. “I kept dropping them and Caroline kept picking them up.”
By the time a friend handed Gaston some gloves near the bottom of Tiehack (on the east side of Buttermilk), the team was sitting in second, four minutes behind the leaders. But that’s when they began picking up their pace. With about 9 miles left, Tory and Gaston took the lead, then jockeyed for position until the very end, finishing with the most dramatic victory in the history of the event: a one-second win over the second-place team, a time of five hours, 55 minutes and 55 seconds.
“Caroline came over after and we celebrated with a pizza,” says Gaston.
“We talked about the race and how much fun we had,” says Tory. “Maybe enough fun that I can convince Jordan to do it with me again.”
“I’m not closed to doing it again,” says
Photography by: PHOTOGRAPHED BY KELSEY COON, ACCLIMATE STUDIOS