Ann Larson

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April 6, 2011
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Snow pros descend upon Snowmass

Revelers have come to Snowmass Village to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Professional Ski Instructors of America and the American Association of Snowboard Instructors. The party continues through April 9.

Normally this end-of-the-season event takes place in Snowbird, Utah, and attracts snowsport pros from all over the U.S., but for their golden anniversary, the group chose to come to Snowmass.

According to Andy Hawk, marketing director for PSIA-AASI, about 625 out-of-town snow pros are registered for the event. Add to that number the Aspen Skiing Co. instructors and there is a lot of partying in town for the last ski week on Snowmass and Ajax.

"We have a lot to be proud of, and a lot of reasons to party, and that is what the 50/50 is all about. The first 50 years have been incredible, but it is the next 50 that we're really excited about. This event is going to be legendary, and the teams at Aspen Skiing Co. and the town of Snowmass Village have put together an eventful week of music, apres parties, and, of course, amazing skiing and riding opportunities," said Hawk.

Said Jim O'Leary, national sales manager for Snowmass Tourism Groups and Meetings, "What a fitting way to celebrate the end of a stellar ski season and the 25th anniversary year of the Snowmass Conference Center. Snowmass is honored to have been chosen by snowsports industry leaders as the venue for this conference and our team has been working behind the scenes for a year since we learned we would be hosting it to ensure that it executes flawlessly."

Thinking they were an underdog in the race to host the 50/50 once the field was whittled down to three venues, including Vail and Breckenridge, the town through Snowmass Tourism and in partnership with Skico, the Silvertree Hotel and the Viceroy pulled out all the stops to show PSIA-AASI that Snowmass Village was ready to fulfill their desires during a site visit in July 2009.

"We listened to their needs and showed them all the cool things there are to do in the area. We wowed them. It was really quite a coup to have the 50/50 celebration here in Snowmass," said O'Leary.

The schedule for the snow pros includes a week of parties, skiing, riding, learning and experiencing three separate ski resorts.

Some of the participants are spending their days free skiing and riding; others take lessons with current and past PSIA-AASI national team members while exploring Snowmass Ski Area, Highlands and Aspen Mountain.

But it is the apres scene and evening events that will get this little mountain town rocking. In addition to apres-ski festivities at bars on the Snowmass Mall and Base Village throughout the week, the Snowmass Conference Center hosted Monday's welcome reception followed by a pub crawl on Tuesday evening.

The 50/50 celebration banquet at the Silvertree Conference Center on Wednesday honors one of PSIA's seven founders, Curt Chase, who launched and ran the Aspen Ski Patrol in 1946, wrote the first manual for Aspen ski instructors, and had a long career as head of the Aspen Ski School and Snowmass Ski School.

Chase and former PSIA-AASI President Mark Anderson will be honored with the prestigious lifetime achievement award. The evening also features a keynote address by Olympic and X Games snowboard coach Bud Keene.

To show that skiing keeps you young, more than 30 attending members of the organization, some of whom are now in their 90s, will get pins commemorating 50 years in PSIA.

On Friday, the celebration continues with the golden ticket party poolside at the Viceroy Hotel.

Snowsport pros and locals will start to ring out the 2010-2011 ski season on Saturday as the Skico treats 50/50 conference guests and locals to a concert on the Base Village Plaza.

"This party is open to all, starting with DJ Ronnie from 1-4 p.m. and Jes Grew from 4-7 p.m.," said Skico Senior Manager of Events Marketing Deric Gunshor.

This will be a fun way to end another great ski season, bearing in mind that the last day at Snowmass is Sunday, April 10.

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The Aspen Times Updated Apr 6, 2011 02:13PM Published Apr 6, 2011 02:09PM Copyright 2011 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.