Festive Ajax Cup returns to benefit AVSC | AspenTimes.com

Festive Ajax Cup returns to benefit AVSC

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times

The fifth annual Audi Ajax Cup put the spotlight on the youngsters of the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club.

All 2,300 of them.

The traditional midwinter fundraiser for the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club took place on the Little Nell ski run at Aspen Mountain on Tuesday, with 14 teams racing in a handicap-timing format — all to raise money for the AVSC.

Teams were purchased, in advance, by individual and corporate sponsors.

The seven skiers/riders on each team competed in a head-to-head race, after handicap standards were set by seeding runs.

"The Audi Ajax Cup is our biggest fundraiser of the year," said Barbara Frank, development director for AVSC. "This is an amazing event because it showcases the best of AVSC. Our coaches are up there on the hill; our volunteers are up there. And our sponsors are here watching. It's an exciting day for us."

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She said the Ajax Cup and its associated celebrations, including an auction of unique ski and cycling trips, are icing on the AVSC cake.

"It, of courses, raises money. But the underlying message is about those 2,300 kids," said Frank, adding that the AVSC expanse of programs will reach 2,300 youngsters from the Roaring Fork Valley this year. "We want to share this with the kids in this valley."

She said the Ajax Cup uses a brigade of volunteers to "celebrate the New Year, celebrate winter."

"We couldn't do this without the Skico," Frank said, adding that the Aspen Skiing Co. lets the AVSC use the Little Nell run on one of the busiest days of the season.

She said the event also would not be possible without the participants, the benefactors and the sponsors.

"Those people believe in the kids. They keep coming back every year," Frank said. "They believe in the mission of AVSC."

The other key component, she said, is the legion of pro skiers and riders who turn out for the event.

"We are lucky enough to have returning pros every year," Frank said, citing race co-chairs Casey Puckett and Chris Davenport.

Davenport, the iconic freeskier, was selected for the Ski Hall of Fame this year. He's a pioneer in big mountain skiing.

Puckett is a five-time Olympic ski racer and former AVSC coach.

"And we have local talent, like Alice McKennis and Wiley Maple," Frank said. "These pros really help identify the event. They basically volunteer their time and effort."

Plus, she said, there's another unique connection to U.S. Ski Team racers like McKennis and Maple.

"They came up through the ranks (of AVSC), and now they are giving back," Frank said. "They are such good teachers; they get everybody amped."

McKennis, obviously, amped up her teammates and Team Gorsuch.

The Gorsuch gang won the Ajax Cup title for the second consecutive year.

Other top-end skiers and boarders who led teams Tuesday include Aspen Olympic snowboarder Chris Klug, U.S. Ski Team veteran Jake Zamansky as well as notables like Johno McBride, Wendy Fisher, Kristina Koznick, Gella Sutro, Chris Anthony and Kim Reichhelm.

"And our adaptive team is a big help," Frank said. "We put an AVSC adaptive athlete on each team, so people get to interact with our (skiers and riders)."

Mark Cole, AVSC executive director, agreed.

"The real winners here are the kids of the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club," Cole said at the welcome party Monday night at the Caribou Club. Cole credited Jeff Gorsuch with starting the idea of the Ajax Cup. He also thanked event directors — Pam Alexander, Jacolyn Bucksbaum and John Bucksbaum. He added that AVSC provides scholarship assistance to 1 in 3 AVSC participants.

Also this year, the Audi Ajax Cup also attracted Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who was on hand to support the community-based AVSC fundraiser.

As well, Aspen Major Steve Skadron joined the festivities as AVSC marks it 78th year of operation in Aspen.

In addition to team fees, money is raised at the Ajax Cup through an auction of items and exotic trips.

Here are three of the auction items this year:

Ski Portillo with Chris Davenport — In its 12th year, the Portillo Superstars Camp in Chile features a week of skiing with legends like Davenport and his coaches: Ingrid Backstrom, Wendy Fisher, Mike Douglas, Chris Anthony and Jess McMillan.

Participants ski the high Andes.

The item, valued at $20,000, included two business class airline tickets and a new pair of Kastle skis.

Johno McBride Fantasy Ski Camp — A private ski day for a party of four with second-generation Aspenite Johno McBride, AVSC's head coach who is coming off a four-year stint with the Canadian National Team. McBride worked in a similar capacity with the U.S. Ski Team in the 1990s.

McBride also coached Bode Miller for two seasons when he won the overall World Cup in 2005 and 2008.

The party of four will be outfitted in Gorsuch with top of-the-line rentals. Lunch at the private Aspen Mountain Club is included along with a home video of the day. Value of the camp is $12,000.

Richmond 2015 World Cycling Championships, Stadium Club — A premium package for two to enjoy the 2015 World Cycling Championships in Richmond, Virginia — the first time a United States venue will host the road world championships in 30 years.

The best male and female cyclists in the world will compete on the historic roads of Richmond.

The auction package features an inside look at the cycling event as a member of the Podium Club.

The Podium Club package will include five nights at a prime, finish-zone hotel, VIP hospitality passes, "recon" rides of the racing circuits and fully supported daily rides with cycling celebrities.

Value of the package is $18,000.

Lee Kallman, vice president of marketing and development for Richmond 2015, attended the 2014 Audi Ajax Cup to present the Podium Club auction package for the AVSC fundraiser.

dstrode@aspentimes.com

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