Town Race Series out of the gate | AspenTimes.com

Town Race Series out of the gate

Charles Agar

Christian Messner, winner of Saturdays Town Race Series advanced division giant slalom, shows off the Thunderbowl winners cup. Each weeks winner may carry the glass bowl around town for free food and drinks from race sponsors. (Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times)

Aspen, CO ColoradoASPEN Ski racers in The Aspen Times Town Race Series kicked-off another season of friendly rivalry Saturday at Aspen Highlands.More than 50 racers tested their mettle on a fast giant slalom course. Christian Messner, a native of Innsbruck, Austria, took first place for the men, and Aspenite Asia Jenkins took first for the women.Saturday’s event kicked off six weekends of racing in both the Saturday advanced division and Sunday’s recreational category; the race series runs through the end of March.”It’s good to be out here again,” Messner said. A veteran of Austrian “farmboy racing,” Messner is a ski instructor with the Aspen Skiing Co. He said the event is a fun way to get out on the mountain with friends. “And you never know who’s going to show up. We’re all friends, but everybody wants to win.””Once you cross that wand, it’s on,” said Scott Strickland, who took third place Saturday. He agreed the race is about having fun, but the racers hit the course in earnest.Messner’s win Saturday not only earns him bragging rights, but he carries with him the heavy glass “Thunderbowl,” which garners freebies at area sponsors. Racers meet up at Zane’s Tavern in Aspen after most events.The advanced division attracts serious racers, but the Sunday recreational league is open to all comers.Chuck Tower, an Aspen resident and longtime racer in the Town Race Series, was worried about his first run after a knee replacement last spring.”Last year I couldn’t race,” he said. “I wondered if [the new knee] would work. And it’s like I’m back to the future.”Tower, who has won in the over-40 and over-50 divisions in the past, did it again Saturday with a win in the over-60 category and was grinning ear to ear.”Nobody’s going to the Olympics, but we’re having a lot of fun,” said Scott Nichols, race director at Highlands. He compared the town races to a bowling league, with participants in high-tech ski gear and speed suits instead of shirts with their names stitched into them.”It’s a heck of a lot of fun. And it’s amazing to see how your skiing improves,” he said.Mike Tache, who took second place in Saturday’s race, runs a racing clinic on Tuesdays at Highlands. And many of his students will be out on the hill for Sunday’s recreational division.”The most challenging race we have to offer is the top-to-bottom giant slalom,” Nichols said. The March 24 and 25 race is the “Kitzbuhel of Aspen,” he said.The cost to participate in the Town Race Series is $25 for one race or $125 for the full season. Team registration is $600. For more information, contact Nichols at 544-3005.”Today was a great day,” Nichols said. “It’s neat to see such a diverse group of people come together and yuck it up and have a great time.”Charles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com

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