| AspenTimes.com

Aspen School District cancels classes for Friday after overnight snow

The Aspen School District has canceled all classes for Friday because of the overnight snowstorm that rolled through the area.

The district sent out a message early Friday morning saying that school “will not be in session today due to harsh winter driving conditions.”

A winter storm is forecast to drop up to a foot of snow in some areas around Aspen. The snow started about 8 p.m. Thursday and continued overnight.

According to the district policy: “When schools are closed all scheduled activities in the school building are canceled and sports events and practices are postponed.”

The snow day means a four-day weekend for local students as schools are closed Monday because of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.

Aspen-area Forest Service workers seek alternative jobs as shutdown enters fifth week

Some of the furloughed workers in the White River National Forest are waiting tables, cleaning houses, painting, driving buses and taking other temporary jobs to keep food on the table and pay rent or mortgage.

Others are dusting off resumes and starting to apply for alternative work as the grim reality sets in that the partial government shutdown might not end soon.

"I assumed based on what we experienced in the past it would be short-lived," said Shelly Grail Braudis, a worker in the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District.

But this shutdown, which starts its fifth week Saturday, is now the longest in U.S. government history.

Braudis and her husband, Michael, are one of the rare dual-career households where both adults are federal government employees and now on furlough. Michael also works for the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District.

Shelly said they have dipped into savings to keep their household afloat after each missed a paycheck and another looks unlikely to arrive next week. On Thursday, Michael explored picking up shifts in a transit-oriented job. Shelly has applied for a job with Visiting Angels elder care. She would like to work full time during the government shutdown, she said, and retain a reduced role once her Forest Service job resumes.

Most of the 15 or so workers in the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District have stayed in touch during the furlough. The Braudises hosted a potluck dinner at their house in Glenwood Springs last week and are planning another. It's an important time to stick together and offer each other support, Shelly said. Morale has taken a hit during the past month.

"We're all exhausted, quite frankly," Braudis said. "People just want to get back to work."

Forest Service worker Kevin Warner wasted no time reaching out to friends for work as the shutdown dragged on. He was upfront about how his availability might end abruptly if he was able to return to his federal position. A friend hired him this week to perform some demolition prior to building remodels. Warner also has picked up shifts waiting tables at a Carbondale restaurant.

"I'm definitely keeping busy," he said.

Warner also took up Alpine Bank's offer of an interest-free loan to furloughed federal employees who missed a paycheck because of the shutdown. He said the bank set up a very efficient system. He filled out the paperwork earlier this week and received the loan Wednesday, the first day they were available.

The bank's program is indicative of how local residents have tried to help furloughed workers. "Many, many of the local folks have been supportive," Warner said.

Warner recently served for several months as the acting Aspen-Sopris District ranger before returning to his regular post with the forest supervisor's office. He and his family own their home in Glenwood Springs.

Braudis and Warner said they have colleagues who are doing all sorts of things during the shutdown. Braudis said friends of hers in New Castle are cleaning houses. Others are volunteering time with nonprofit organizations.

Warner said one co-worker returned to Florida to live with family until her job resumes. Another colleague is taking classes at Colorado Mountain College.

This is the first government shutdown experienced by Kate Jerman, who started her career with the Forest Service fairly recently. She was on vacation during the holidays, but the impact of the shutdown has come to roost since the first of the year.

"It was the holiday bubble and that kind of burst in the last couple of weeks," she said.

She finds the uncertainty nerve-racking. She's decided she needs to look for a temporary, alternative job.

"I'm dusting off my cover letter and resume," Jerman said. "I really need to figure out over the next couple of weeks how to put food on the table."

She rents an apartment in Carbondale and said her neighbors have been kind and supportive. Like Warner, she's considering seeking an Alpine Bank loan. The local support, she said, "goes to show what an amazing community" there is in the Roaring Fork Valley.

However, a few people who aren't federal workers on furlough have underestimated the stress of the situation.

"People will come up to me and say, 'How is your vacation?'" Jerman said. "That kind of stings."

It's been anything but a vacation. She said she will take the situation one day at a time, but hopes the shutdown ends sooner than later.

"I love my job and want to get back to work," Jerman said.

There are about 133 full-time workers in the White River National Forest, which sprawls over 2.3 million acres, from Rifle to Summit County and Aspen to Meeker. Of those, 112 workers are on furlough, said Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams. The remaining 21 must be available in case they are needed.

There are an estimated 800,000 federal government workers nationwide affected by the shutdown.

Fitzwilliams said he didn't have a good feel for how many furloughed workers have taken other, temporary jobs.

Braudis said she doesn't envy Fitzwilliams as the head of a staff that can't work.

"He's dealing with some employees that are panicked," she said.

Out-of-work employees received one bit of good news this week. Trump signed a bill passed by Congress that assures they will receive back pay once the stalemate is resolved.

Warner said it is "disappointing" they aren't able to perform their duties.

"We're all public servants. We would like to be providing that service," he said.

scondon@aspentimes.com

Longtime internist Dr. Barry Mink inducted into Aspen Hall of Fame

Dr. Barry Mink's retirement has been fairly uneventful for the past four years, but that all changed this past fall when he got a call informing him he was being inducted into the Aspen Hall of Fame.

"I was totally surprised," he said this week, joking that inductees are typically reaching the end of their days. "I guess they figured I was close to broken."

But joking aside, Mink, 78, expressed his gratitude to be included in a long list of elite Aspenites who have collectively made this community what it is.

"I was very honored," he said. "I love Aspen. It's a great town."

A Chicago native, Mink first discovered Aspen on a ski trip he was invited on by a friend when they were serving stateside in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War.

He and his wife, Peggy, didn't know how to ski but they fell in love with the place immediately.

That was 1974 and Mink had already completed medical school at Northwestern University and became a physician specializing in internal medicine.

Ski instructor John Callahan encouraged Mink to speak with Dr. Whitcomb about a possible job here. The two hit it off and Mink joined the Aspen Clinic.

That began a long career for Mink and the start of many friendships that still last decades later.

Mink's impact on the community started almost immediately as the new cardiologist in town.

He realized that Aspen Valley Hospital and ski patrol was lacking adequate cardiac care. So he established an acute cardiac care unit and better management of cardiac and medical emergencies.

Nurses received training to identify and treat cardiac events, and Mink became a medical advisor for ski patrol, encouraging EMT certification so they could perform resuscitation methods on the hill.

Facing pushback from the Aspen Skiing Co. to outfit ski patrol with defibrillators due to electricity use and the exposure of liability, Mink eventually was able to convince the powers-that-be to enable patrollers to save lives with technology.

The first person to be saved on the hill using a defibrillator was named Howard who was a visitor to Aspen, Mink said.

An annual award for the best pre-hospital save was named in his honor, and when the "Howard Award" was presented each year, he came for the presentation.

Mink was an all-conference high school quarterback and all-state baseball catcher, who signed with the Cincinnati Reds whom he played for for three years until a freak shoulder accident playing flag football had him sitting on the bench.

He also was a competitive Nordic skier, cyclist and runner, completing many ultra marathons, 100-mile races and competing in national ski races.

Mink was known as a pioneer in sports medicine locally, nationally and internationally. In 1977, local doctor Robert Odén, who was an orthopedic physician, asked him to assist him with the U.S. Ski Team, tapped him.

For nearly two decades, Mink served as a physician for the U.S. Biathlon Team. He was chosen as chief medical officer and U.S. team physician to accompany the Olympic team to the 1980 and 1994 winter games.

With Tage Pedersen from the U.S. Alpine team and fellow Aspenites Dr. Balke and Dr. Anthony, Mink formed Aspen's first sports medicine institute at the Aspen Club in the 1980s.

It focused on helping local and national athletes recover from sports-related injuries and improve their performance.

Lorna Pedersen, who is an Aspen Hall of Fame board member and the daughter of Tage, said she remembers Mink helping young athletes in the community at no charge.

"My memory of what he did was really taking an interest in the high school athletes," she said.

Mink also supported young skiers from the Rocky Mountain Nordic and Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club with their medical problems and training.

His dream was to help advance performance of athletes so they might reach their true potential in cross-country skiing. Many of the skiers went on to perform at the collegiate level and beyond, earning spots on World Cup and Olympic teams, according to the Aspen Hall of Fame's biography on Mink.

"A lot of this was driven by my interests," he said.

At AVH, Mink was the chief of medicine and chief of staff. He was elected to the AVH board of directors for three, four-year terms and served as president for one.

He, along with the board, shepherded a near bankrupt hospital into financial stability and enabled AVH to complete an expansion.

Mink retired in 2013, which has been a blessing and curse, he said.

"At first it was great because there were no responsibilities, the pressure was off," he said. "But I miss my patients."

He said he's taken up golf and plays once a week with the old timers, two of whom also are Aspen Hall of Fame inductees.

In the winter, Mink alpine or Nordic skis and plays chess on the computer, and he and Peggy spend a lot of time together.

He said he's been thinking about volunteering, or becoming a baseball coach.

Shortly before Mink retired, he published a fictional book called "A Second Chance", which could be what his life might have been — an old baseball player returning to the sport at age 65.

He said he's excited for Saturday night's Aspen Hall of Fame dinner when he and his fellow inductees will be honored.

His three daughters and their children will be there, as well as many of his patients and those he helped through his community dedication.

"I'm thankful," he said. "I'm a lucky guy."

csackariason@aspentimes.com

Trap-kill may be only option for West Glenwood mountain lions (video)

Reports of mountain lion sightings in West Glenwood continued this week as a video of four lions walking through one neighborhood circulated on social media and was aired on television news broadcasts.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife's game warden for Glenwood Springs, Dan Cacho, said he believed the four lions to be a mother with three fairly mature cubs. After trapping and euthanizing a lion near Traver Trail in West Glenwood last week, Cacho confirmed that wildlife officials trapped and killed another lion off Juniper Court this week.

He said more traps have been set in the Oasis Creek area in West Glenwood after the recent sightings.

"These lions have set up their home territory in West Glenwood and Oasis Creek area, and because of human health and safety issues we feel we need to trap and remove these animals as quickly as we can," he explained.

While CPW continues to receive calls from residents and other concerned citizens asking them to transport the animals rather than putting them down, Cacho said relocating mountain lions has become increasingly difficult on the Western Slope.

Wherever there is mountain habitat on the West Slope that's not near human populations, he said there are most likely healthy mountain lions already living there, making the addition of another lion dangerous for both animals.

"If there is a healthy lion in that area, then we are just setting them up for failure," Cacho added. "We have to euthanize them for human health and safety."

Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson said he has not been getting a ton of calls regarding the recent mountain lion activity in West Glenwood, but said he's watching for activity and will assist CPW officials as needed.

"We will assist them with what they feel is most important," Wilson said.

Wilson invited Cacho to speak at Thursday night's Glenwood Springs City Council meeting to update city officials of their efforts.

"We are attempting to trap more lions in the north Traver Trail area. They are still very active," he said at Thursday's meeting.

Anyone who has an encounter with a mountain lion in the area is asked to immediately contact the local Division of Wildlife office at 970-947-2920.

Recommended Stories For You

According to CPW, individual lions can range in areas varying from 10 to 370 square miles. The size of the home range will depend on the terrain and how much food is available. Females with young kittens will often use the smallest area.

For more information on living with mountain lions visit: goo.gl/47BZjG.

azorn@citizentelegram.com

Winter storm Friday forecast to bring heavy snow to Aspen, Snowmass area

Another round of snow with a forecast of as much as a foot Friday could make travel difficult around Aspen and Snowmass, the National Weather Service said Thursday evening in a winter weather advisory.

The forecast calls for 6 to 12 inches of snow by Friday night and winds gusting to 35 mph in the central and northern Colorado mountains. The advisory area includes the Elk and Gore mountains, up to the Steamboat area and toward Vail.

The NWS advisory in in effect until 6 p.m., and the update Thursday evening said the "hazardous conditions could impact the morning or evening commute." Mountain passes will be difficult for holiday travelers, as heavy, wet snow is expected through most of the Colorado high country.

The Aspen School District canceled classes for Friday because of the overnight snow.

Those traveling in and out of the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport should check their flight status before heading to Sardy Field.

Parts of southern and western Colorado are under a winter weather warning with more than a foot predicted in some areas, the NWS said.

The forecasted snow has increased the avalanche danger to high (level 4 out of 5) and backcountry travel in avalanche terrain is not advised, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center warned. This storm comes after up to 15 inches of snow fell Wednesday in the central mountains.

"Expect a heavy snow load on a weak snowpack beginning late Thursday night and continuing through Friday," the CAIC said.

The avalanche danger will rise rapidly, according to the state agency, and slides will be large and easy to trigger or occur naturally in much of the Colorado high country.

The storm is forecast to clear out by Saturday, and the next chance for snow in the area on Monday and again Wednesday, the NWS said.

 

Lindsey Vonn takes few risks in first downhill training run since injury

CORTINA D'AMPEZZO, Italy — Lindsey Vonn skied conservatively in the first World Cup downhill training session of her injury-delayed season on Thursday.

In foggy conditions, Vonn placed 10th, 0.76 seconds behind leader Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway, and was a bit shaky landing the final jump on the Olympia delle Tofane course.

"I was really happy to be back in the starting gate. I was a little bit nervous — a couple more butterflies than normal," Vonn said. "I didn't take any risks. I was a little bit round and conservative but I skied cleanly and for the most part executed the line the way I wanted to. The last jump is a little bit of a kicker."

Vonn, who injured her left knee in November, will return to competition in downhill races on Friday and Saturday, followed by a super-G on Sunday. She plans to retire next season.

The American needs five more wins to break the all-time victories record of 86 held by Swedish standout Ingemar Stenmark. Vonn already holds the record of 12 wins in Cortina.

Tamara Tippler of Austria placed second in training, 0.06 seconds behind Mowinckel, and Romane Miradoli of France was third, 0.39 back. There were several delays due to the fog.

"I had a lot of fun but I was a little surprised after Tofana (a chute between two massive walls of rock) how much air I got, and I was just getting my bearings for a minute after that," Vonn said. "I skied a little bit too round in that section but otherwise it was kind of just business as usual. … By the bottom I felt better."

During her eight days of skiing to prepare for these races, Vonn focused exclusively on super-G with one day of super-G on downhill skis.

"So I haven't really gotten up to the speed in two months," she said. "It was fun to go fast again."

Vonn did not start the second training session later Thursday, and she wasn't concerned about a forecast for overnight snow — even though her comeback was already delayed a week when nine feet (three meters) of snow forced the cancellation of last weekend's races in St. Anton, Austria.

"It's not going to snow that much," Vonn said. "I've seen Cortina have a meter of snow and have a race so I am not concerned about that. My concern is just getting my knees iced up and getting prepared for the race tomorrow. That's all that's on my mind. I know that we're going to have a race tomorrow."

Reaction to Vonn's return was mixed.

"I race against time and against (the) course, so if she's here or not or if anyone is missing or not it doesn't really change a lot," said Slovenian rival Ilka Stuhec, the reigning downhill world champion who won back-to-back speed races in Val Gardena last month.

Added Mowinckel, who won the Olympic downhill silver medal, one spot ahead of Vonn, "She's a big icon here so it's cool to have her back. … That's the best part, when all the competitors can be there in races."

Several skiers fell in the second training run, which was held amid snowfall and thicker fog.

Ester Ledecka, the Czech skier-snowboarder who won the Olympic super-G, lost control and slid down the hill for a ways then got back up and finished her run. She said she was not injured.

Swiss racer Jasmine Flury and Ricarda Haaser also crashed.

Corine Suter of Switzerland led the second session, 0.27 ahead of Cornelia Huetter of Austria and 0.36 ahead of Stuhec.

ESTER LEDECKA CHOOSES TO SKI AT WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

CORTINA D'AMPEZZO, Italy — After months of agonizing over a decision she would have preferred not to have to make, skier-snowboarder Ester Ledecka has finally chosen to compete in the Alpine skiing world championships next month instead of the snowboard worlds.

The Czech athlete who won golds in skiing and snowboarding at the Pyeongchang Olympics last year had to make the choice since the parallel giant slalom at the freestyle ski and snowboard world championships in Utah is scheduled for Feb. 4 — the same day that downhill training opens at the skiing worlds in Are, Sweden, and a day before the super-G race there.

"I go skiing," Ledecka said on Thursday following a World Cup downhill training session.

"I would like to go (to) both but I had to make a choice and I made it and I'm looking forward to it. … The way I have the schedule right now it makes more sense for me.

"The decision had to be made and this is the life."

At the Pyeongchang Olympics, Ledecka followed her super-G victory in Alpine skiing by winning the parallel GS in snowboarding — becoming the first athlete to win two golds at the same Winter Games using two different types of equipment.

Ledecka won a snowboard race in Cortina a month ago on the course in Faloria. With downhill races scheduled on Friday and Saturday followed by a super-G on Sunday, she'll now be competing on the other side of the valley on the Olympia delle Tofane course.

"It's weird because I really think about the speed in different ways when I have a snowboard and when I have skis," Ledecka said. "When I have a snowboard and I ride faster you feel it more, you feel more fast. … And here you should get really fast to feel like, 'OK, now it's running.'"

Ledecka fell in the second downhill training session but got back up uninjured and continued her run. She was later fined 500 Swiss Francs ($500) by the International Ski Federation for continuing to ski after a crash.

"She had the feeling that she didn't completely stop," said Tomas Bank, Ledecka's coach. "Now she understands that there are security reasons. She's a racehorse so she always tries to finish."

Having already won two world titles in snowboarding, Ledecka considered an attempt to duplicate that success at the Alpine worlds was attractive.

"I would like to try to have some nice results on skis as well, and to try Are because it's a nice hill and I really liked it there,'" said Ledecka, who finished 11th in the downhill at World Cup finals in Are last March — after placing second in downhill training. "It's a good decision."

Ledecka said she will compete in the super-G, downhill "and maybe super-combined" in Are: "I already made three runs on slalom skis so I will be quite well prepared."

After the Alpine worlds, Ledecka will return to the snowboard World Cup.

Ledecka appealed to the FIS to change competition schedules to make it possible for her to compete in both worlds, and the governing body said it tried to help.

FIS secretary general Sarah Lewis told The Associated Press: "Whatever had been possible would have been done but unfortunately with the logistics involved in the whole setup it wasn't possible. It wasn't without significant efforts."

The worlds in Utah involve four different ski areas and parallel snowboard racing shares the same Park City venue with halfpipe, slopestyle and big air events.

"There isn't the capacity to double it up and have everything going on at the same time," Lewis said.

"It's a very, very complex setup there. There are 28 events on the program. It's a huge event. With morning and evening events and logistics," Lewis said. "Crossing over from one championship to another, it's obviously unique and never happened before."

Lewis added that the next snowboard worlds will be in China in March 2021, a month after the Alpine championships in Cortina.

"Then there will probably be a new problem that it will clash with the World Cup," Lewis said.

Added Ledecka, "It will happen again. I'm afraid so. But I will fight."

Olympic medalist snowboarder Max Parrot from Canada has lymphoma

MONTREAL — Olympic medalist snowboarder Max Parrot of Canada has been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. Canada Snowboard said Thursday the cancer was diagnosed Dec. 21 after a biopsy 10 days earlier. The 24-year-old from Quebec will miss the rest of the 2018-19 season.

Parrot said he underwent his first of 12 chemotherapy sessions last week. The cancer attacks part of the immune system and is most often seen in people of 20 to 40 years old.

Former Pittsburgh Penguins star Mario Lemieux was diagnosed with the disease in 1993 and returned to play that season.

Parrot won a slopestyle silver medal at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games and is a five-time X Games champion. He won gold in big air at X Games Aspen in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018. He also won slopestyle gold in Aspen back in 2014.

He’s also won X Games silver on four occasions, two of those silvers coming in Norway.

AVSC skier Kate Oldham named to U18 national team for Scando Cup in Estonia

As with most athletes, August Teague had a plan for Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club skier Kate Oldham. However, that plan has temporarily fallen apart, and in the best way possible.

"She is one of the athletes where you sort of plan on a certain step and you go in to hit the step and she skips the step and hits the one above it," said Teague, AVSC's Nordic program director and national competition coach.

Oldham, 16, is a junior at Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale and is one of the AVSC's top cross-country skiers. She was one of five current AVSC athletes to have competed in the Jan. 3 to 8 U.S. Cross-Country Ski Championships in Craftsbury, Vermont. The premier U.S. event of the winter season, U.S. nationals is a qualifier for a number of other events, such as possible World Cup starts, and can include numerous members of the U.S. Ski Team.

Oldham, competing at senior nationals for the first time, was there only for the experience. Instead, she got a little bit more than she bargained for in the form of a spot on the U.S. team for the U18 Scandinavian Championships, otherwise known as the Scando Cup, held Jan. 25 to 27 in Otepaa, Estonia.

"It was on my radar for a potential goal next year. … It's still so crazy to me, and unexpected," Oldham said. "I was just going to go in and see what it was about to maybe set myself up better for next year. And then I just kind of surprised myself a little bit and had some good races, and the next thing I knew I was being put onto the team to Estonia."

THE SCANDO CUP

With Scandinavia being the center of the Nordic world, the Scando Cup is certainly a big deal. Only a handful of countries, such as the United States, have spots in the event, seen as somewhat of a bridge for the U18 skiers who aspire to reach that next level, such as world juniors. Oldham is one of 12 going for the U.S. — six men and six women — and is the lone representative from Colorado.

"This trip has been developed for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard pipeline in terms of getting our under-18 athletes experience overseas against the highest level competition possible, to ready them for world juniors," Teague said of the Scando Cup. "I am fully confident she will shock herself and shock myself with results there. But the goal is to learn how to travel overseas, learn how to travel away from AVSC, because now she is traveling under the U.S. Ski Team banner, with a slightly different support staff."

While Oldham has vacationed in Europe, she has never competed there. This will be her first time representing the U.S. on an international stage, and is taking a similar approach to the Scando Cup as she did at U.S. nationals, which is simply to take it all in and learn what she can for the following year.

Qualification for the Scando Cup was based largely on results from U.S. nationals. Many of the skiers who initially finished in the top six among U18 athletes also received a spot in world juniors, and obviously opted for the higher-level competition. This left the door open for someone like Oldham to land on the team bound for Estonia, something she didn't think was in her wheelhouse, at least this winter.

Most of the top finishers at nationals are current members of the U.S. Ski Team, including 2016 Basalt High School graduate Hailey Swirbul, who had her first World Cup start this past weekend in Dresden, Germany.

"Looking at the start lists, it was 'holy cow' — so overwhelming and kind of intimidating," Oldham said of nationals. "Then you see Hailey and Hannah Halvorsen and Julia Kern, all these U.S. Ski Team girls also, and it's like, 'Well, looks like I'm just going to go out and kind of get my butt kicked a little bit.' And that's totally why I went. It was exciting and scary and fun."

Oldham's results weren't at the level of those veteran skiers, but when it came to Scando Cup qualifying, she only had to hold her own against the other U18 athletes. In Estonia, there will be three races, and each of the six women will have a starting spot in each race. There will be a 1.3-kilometer classic sprint on Friday, Jan. 25, a 5k race on Saturday, Jan. 26, and a three-person team relay on Sunday, Jan. 27.

Teague hopes Oldham can soak in the experience this year and again qualify for the 2020 event with even higher expectations in hand. She's certainly had success on U.S. soil, having twice competed at junior nationals — she also is the reigning high school state champion in Nordic skate, having won it for CRMS last winter — but is just now getting to taste the international stage.

"As it relates to Kate, we've always taken the approach of taking appropriate steps as we progress with her athletically," Teague said. "Next year, when we are back onto our plan of her qualifying for the U18 trip, she can go over there and have that next level of success."

Oldham wanted to give a bit of gratitude to Muffy Ritz and the Muffy Ritz Endowment, the Avery Mathieu award and the Coldwell Bank Mason Morse junior grant for helping support her.

Her family has set up a GoFundMe page if anyone wanted to help offset any competition costs: http://www.gofundme.com/kate-oldham-nordic-racing.

ROLE MODELS

After the Scando Cup, the next progression is typically world juniors (an U20 event held this year from Jan. 20 to 27 in Lahti, Finland) and then the U23 world championships, which runs concurrently with world juniors. Heading to Finland next week for the U23 competition are a pair of Roaring Fork Valley locals in Swirbul and Evelina Sutro.

Sutro, also of Carbondale and briefly CRMS, finished out high school at a ski academy in Sweden before returning to the U.S. to ski for the University of Vermont. She had a fifth-place finish in the 20k mass start at U.S. nationals earlier this month.

Swirbul, a rookie on the U.S. Ski Team who is going to college in Alaska, was 41st in her first World Cup start on Saturday in Dresden. She finished fourth, one spot ahead of Sutro, in that same 20k race at nationals. Swirbul also finished sixth in a 1.5k classic sprint at nationals. She owns three medals from world juniors, the most of any American Nordic skier in history.

Naturally, Swirbul is someone Oldham has long looked up to, going back to her middle school days when she was struggling to find a foothold in the sport. Led by the likes of Olympic gold medalist Jessie Diggins, Swirbul is part of what is arguably the strongest era in U.S. women's cross-country skiing history, and part of a group Oldham is trying to follow in the ski tracks of.

"I don't see her tons because she is doing U.S. Ski Team things all the time, but she will text me after big races and stuff and I really enjoy having communication with her and talking about races," Oldham said of her relationship with Swirbul. "It's really cool that the women's team is so strong. I wish I knew some of those girls. I think it's definitely cool that it's putting Nordic on the map for a lot of other people."

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Carbondale Rec hosts its first winter triathlon on Saturday, Jan. 19

When Margaret Donnelly started working at the Carbondale Parks and Recreation Department three years ago, she had an idea.

"It's been something I have been thinking about … we finally have the time and a plan," said Donnelly, who works as health and wellness coordinator for Carbondale Parks and Rec.

After years of planning and partnering with Aloha Mountain Cyclery and Independence Run and Hike, the first Full Moon Winter Triathlon will get underway at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday at the rodeo grounds just east of town, under the full moon.

"I always thought it would be fun to do a winter triathlon," Donnelly said. "It brings together all the outdoor adventures, and spirit of the valley."

With help from coworkers and town of Carbondale employees, Donnelly has designed a closed course that uses the Rio Grande Trail and the rodeo grounds to highlight some of the public spaces the area has to offer.

"It's a chance to enjoy the area we live in, with the activities we like," Donnelly said.

She added that the event will give people a chance to embrace events they might not be good at in a safe environment.

The triathlon will consist of 5-kilometer run, 5K cross-country ski (classic or skate), and a 5K fat tire bike ride.

The Yaktrax-aided run will start on the Rio Grande Trail bike path across from the rodeo grounds.

The route will take runners down the trail toward Carbondale to a turnaround point at 2.5K, and back to the rodeo grounds.

Competitors will transition from the run to the cross-country skiing, heading toward Catherine's Store Bridge on the trail 2.5 kilometers out and then back.

"The course is long, but it's not that challenging because of the grade," Donnelly added. "You get a little bit of uphill and some downhill."

The final leg will be the fat tire bike ride over the 0.8-mile course around the rodeo grounds that was built for the event.

"They will do four laps around an amazing trail around the rodeo grounds," Donnelly said.

Donnelly designed the course so none of the trails will cross, and participants won't have to worry about running into each other during the different legs of the event.

The race can be done by individuals or teams of three, depending on your fitness ability and experience with each discipline.

"I workout regularly at the recreation center, and I've been hearing the buzz about it," Carbondale resident and cross-country skiing enthusiast Terri Ritchie said.

Ritchie talked a few friends into entering the new Carbondale event.

"This event sounded like it was friendly for all levels," Ritchie added. "I'm looking forward to exercising with friends and getting outdoors, being a part of the community event."

All entrants must provide their own equipment; Donnelly said that Aloha Mountain Cyclery and Independence Run and Hike can direct interested individuals to places that have rentals in the vicinity.

Participants in the fat tire bike leg of the race will need to bring helmets and lights for their bikes for safety.

Interested parties can register the day of the event, with registration from 3 to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

It is $30 if participants pre-register by 3 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18 and $35 at the event on Saturday.

For more information and to register visit http://www.carbondalerec.com.

"It's just a good way to get the community together and have good community spirit," Donnelly added. "We want people to come out and have a good time, and enjoy the outside."

kmills@postindependent.com

Inbounds avalanche at Taos Ski Valley buries 2 men near summit

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An avalanche rushed down a mountainside at a New Mexico ski resort on Thursday, injuring two people who were pulled from the snow after a roughly 20-minute rescue effort, a resort spokesman said.

The avalanche near the highest peak of Taos Ski Valley happened around 11:30 a.m., initially spurring fears among authorities that more victims may be buried on the mountain before witnesses told them they had not seen any other people on the slope when the slide began.

Still, a precautionary search of the mountain continued through much of the afternoon to ensure no other people remained trapped, said both Chris Stagg, a spokesman for Taos Ski Valley, and Bobby Lucero, the director for emergency management in Taos County.

The extent of the injuries for the two people, both males, was not immediately known. They were taken to hospitals in Albuquerque and Taos.

The avalanche happened on a stretch of mountain known as the K3 chute, where expert skiers who ride a lift to Kachina Peak can dart down a partially rock-lined run. It was unknown what triggered the avalanche, but the ski resort said an investigation was planned.

Stagg said the accident happened despite the resort taking a series of precautions Thursday morning. They included sending ski patrollers to evaluate conditions and detonate explosives — a measure meant to trigger any potential slide before skiers take to the slopes. The resort also delayed opening the lift to Kachina Peak at the start of the day, Stagg said.

“We had checked that area for avalanche conditions this morning and enacted controls,” he said. “This is a great example that you’re never 100 percent certain.”

Taos Ski Valley’s terrain covers a 1,200-acre (or nearly 5-square-kilometers) area of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. Its Kachina Peak is a nearly 12,500-foot (3,810-meter) summit.

According to the Taos News, which was first to report on the avalanche, CPR had been given to the two people found beneath the snow.

George Brooks, the director of the nonprofit Ski New Mexico, which promotes the sport, said avalanches are fairly rare in the state and typically terrain is very well controlled. The avalanche comes as the region enjoys one of its better ski seasons in recent years after a spell of dry winters.

A series of snowstorms has moved across the Southwest since the start of the New Year, and another was expected to soon hit parts of the region after dropping heaving rain and snow in California.

“If they occur, it’s not usually when anybody is around,” Brooks said of avalanches.

Taos Ski Valley had received 2 inches (5 centimeters) of snow in the day before the avalanche and 15 inches (38 centimeters) in the week preceding it, according to its website. The spot where the avalanche happened is prone to winds that can blow up the mountain and create a cornice, allowing avalanches to occur even without a significant amount of recent snowfall, Brooks said.