ASPEN - Ski for the Pass, a nordic ski race on Independence Pass southeast of Aspen, will make its debut Feb. 24.
The Independence Pass Foundation and Aspen retailer Ute Mountaineer are partners in hosting the event, which will be part of the nordic race series organized by the Ute and also a fundraiser for the foundation.
The cross-country ski race will begin at 10 a.m. at the Highway 82 closure gate on the pass and will offer both a racing class for competitors and a touring class for recreational skiers who aren't out to set a blistering pace from the gate to the Lincoln Creek Road turnoff - a distance of 4.2 miles.
The Independence Pass Foundation is the organization that hosts the popular Ride for the Pass each May - a bicycle ride/race up the pass to the ghost town of Independence before the route opens to vehicular traffic for the summer. Last spring, snow forced officials to call off the bike event. For Ski for the Pass, it's OK if it snows, said Mark Fuller, the foundation's executive director.
Fuller said he's not sure what to expect in terms of participation (hundreds of riders turn out for the Ride for the Pass), but he'd be happy if several dozen folks come out to ski.
"We're going to see how it goes. It's kind of an experiment," he said.
A portion of the proceeds from Ski for the Pass will go to the foundation's mission of restoring and revegetating eroded slopes along the highway on Independence Pass.
Snow on the road will be groomed for classic-style skiing with two, and possibly three, sets of parallel tracks. No skating track will be set. Organizers are asking dog owners to avoid the pass on the morning of the event and leave the road to the skiers.
Registration is $30 for families, $15 for individuals and $7 for juniors younger than 18. Pre-registration is available at Ute Mountaineer (on the corner of Hyman and Galena in Aspen). Participants also may register the day of the event at the start line. For more information, call Paul Perley at Ute Mountaineer at 970-925-2849 or go to www.independencepass.org.