This article was originally published in the Aspen Times.
Aspen plays host to many sporting events each winter, ranging from small community events for those just starting out with competition all the way to global-reaching events like last weekend’s X Games. Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club hosts many events throughout the winter; all five disciplines have hosted at least one event this season. While our administrative and coaching staff works hard on the set up of these events, from registration to hill prep and more, it takes a robust volunteer staff to successfully pull off these events and guarantee a great experience for all involved: athletes, parents, coaches and spectators alike.
January was a busy month. Most notably, AVSC hosted our 30th annual Wilder Dwight Memorial speed series. Wilder was a promising young AVSC ski racer in the 80s. He passed away in a ski accident in 1986, and ever since the club has remembered and celebrated his legacy with this incredible race series. This is a full week of speed at the Stapleton Training Center on Highlands: two days of downhill training, two days of downhill races and two days of super-G races.
Speed races take a great deal of effort to put on due to the hill control required by the racers’ high speeds. The snow is constantly getting touched up with rakes and shovels, cross-cuts are tightly restricted, and any movement on the hill is closely monitored.
Due to safety concerns and strapped resources, very few mountains in the nation are either able or willing to take on a speed series for developing racers. We are fortunate that we’re able to continue this tradition and share it with other clubs. It’s crucial for kids to be able to learn speed techniques in a controlled and safe environment, and I’m proud of AVSC and Aspen Skiing Company for continuing to step up and provide that necessary educational arena.
At the same time as the Wilder Dwight Memorial series, our Nordic program hosted both sprint and distance Rocky Mountain Division races. We had over 300 racers at the AVSC Clubhouse with their families and coaches. The parking lot was full of wax trailers, the clubhouse was brimming with racers, and the trails around the clubhouse were packed. Sprint races are particularly maintenance intensive; there’s an immense amount of organization and coordination — requiring over 80 volunteers — that goes into keeping the race moving with so many age classes and heats constantly cycling in and out of the course.
While AVSC and Aspen Skiing Company provide the backbone of these events, we wouldn’t be able to pull them off without the incredible roster of volunteers for each. To all the parents and community members who stood at the start, slipped the course, monitored traffic and parking, sold coffee, collected bibs, manned the scoreboard, announced the races, and lent a helping hand in a plethora of other ways, thank you so much for your work. We truly couldn’t pull it off without you, and we are so appreciative of our community’s willingness to roll up their sleeves and provide fun, safe and memorable experiences to both our kids and their peers from visiting towns.
Every day, AVSC is a hub of winter activities after school. It’s not uncommon to see Nordic racers skating up the hill next to freestyle athletes practicing tricks on the airbag, and in the distance behind them catch a glimpse of Alpine racers and mogul skiers hammering out training runs on Goldenhorn. Although this isn’t a rarity for us, it’s something else to be able to open our training grounds to share with other clubs, and we thank you for making that a possibility.
We’re currently preparing to host another longstanding tradition: the Nordic Bonfire Dinner. This Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m, the Aspen Nordic Center’s trails will feature stops with food from restaurants up and down the Roaring Fork Valley. A progressive dinner on skis takes a lot of coordination and work to put on. While our Special Events Director, Susan, is at the helm, this event has been a success for over 30 years now thanks to the dedicated volunteers that do everything from solicit local restaurants to serve the delicious food to participants. This event, which benefits AVSC’s Nordic program, is open to the community; we’d love to see you there. Check out http://www.teamavsc.org/events for more information.