| AspenTimes.com

Aspen Valley Polo Club announces spectator-free summer schedule

The Aspen Valley Polo Club recently announced its summer schedule, which includes 11 key dates, 10 grass tournaments and three arena challenges at its Carbondale-based venue.

Normally, admission is free and open to the public, but due to the coronavirus pandemic the club won’t be able to have spectators “for the foreseeable future.” In a news release, AVPC said this is “out of an abundance of caution” and players will continue to be tested for COVID-19 throughout the season.

“Polo has become part of the fabric of summer in Aspen,” club co-founder Melissa Ganzi said in the news release. “Our fans are important to us and we are extremely disappointed to be unable to include them in our 2020 season. This is obviously due to our need for caution and care in the face of the pandemic.”

While the events may be closed to the general public, ChukkerTV will livestream the entirety of the 2020 polo series.

With some of the world’s best players coming to the Roaring Fork Valley to play each year, the AVPC season has become a hot-ticket item in the polo world.

This year’s lineup is slated to include appearances from three 10-goalers (polo’s highest handicap), including Argentinian stars Pablo MacDonough and Juan Martin Nero, as well as Pablo “Polito” Pieres, America’s top-ranked player. Aspen polo mainstay Nic Roldan, an eight-goaler and the No. 2-ranked American, also is set to return.

The Ganzi family, which started the club and is the face of polo in the valley, all will play. This includes Marc and Melissa Ganzi, as well as their children, Grant and Riley.

The season kicks off Sunday, July 5, with the Independence Cup. The rest of the month includes the Craig Sakin Memorial (July 10-12); ChukkerTV Challenge Cup (July 17-19); USPA National Arena Handicap (July 22-29); Basalt Handicap (July 24-26); and Emma Challenge Cup (July 30-Aug. 2).

The August lineup includes the High Alpine Cup (Aug. 7-9); Mount Sopris Cup (Aug. 14-16); Rocky Mountain Open (Aug. 21-23); and Carbondale Classic (Aug. 28-30). The season wraps up with “The Triple Crown of Polo” from Sept. 1-6.

The Ganzis usually put on the World Snow Polo Championship each December at Rio Grande Park in Aspen, although no official announcement has yet been made on if that event will go on as planned for 2020 amid the pandemic.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson, wife cope with coronavirus in Aspen

INDIANAPOLIS — Jimmie Johnson and his family took every precaution to avoid the coronavirus.

They washed their hands frequently, diligently followed the face-mask guidelines and even left their home in Charlotte, North Carolina, for the less densely populated Aspen.

And yet both Johnson and his wife still tested positive for the virus this week — knocking the seven-time NASCAR champion out of what was expected to be his final Brickyard 400.

Johnson is the first NASCAR driver to test positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 and it will end his streak of 663 consecutive Cup starts. It’s also temporarily disrupting his family life as he and wife, Chani, attempt to quarantine while still raising their two daughters. Both girls tested negative, Johnson said.

“We’re being very responsible in our home and trying to self-isolate, but at the same time we have to parent on top of their fears,” Johnson said Saturday by Zoom from Aspen.

“So we’re OK, but for a 9-year-old and 6-year-old, it’s hard. We can’t feed them. We’re heartbroken to see the fear in their eyes.”

Johnson was in Indianapolis on Wednesday to test on Dallara’s simulator. He then flew back to Aspen and was scheduled to return to Indy for Sunday’s race.

He didn’t have an inkling anything was wrong until Friday.

Chani Johnson had been experiencing seasonal allergy symptoms in the summer mountain air, and the 44-year-old Johnson was using a routine prescription to treat his own seasonal issues.

Chani Johnson, a “rule follower” her husband said, went for a coronavirus test because of the allergies. Her results came back positive Friday morning and Johnson and their daughters immediately went for their own tests.

“It would be very easy right now to get bummed out,” said Johnson, who is stepping away from full-time NASCAR racing at the end of the season. “If it wasn’t for Chani’s diligence to do the right thing, we’d be going on with life as normal and who knows who we could have come in contact with and infected.”

The good news is doctors believe Johnson’s wife already endured the worst of COVID-19. Johnson said aside from a tickle in his throat, he’s asymptomatic.

But the ramifications reverberate around the racing community.

Johnson said he has spoken with representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as part of a contact tracing initiative and continues to seek out answers to a litany of questions. One thing he’s not certain about is a positive test for antibodies he said he received early in the pandemic.

“I was warned by my physician then that although I did test positive for the antibodies, there’s a 20% chance that it’s incorrect,” Johnson said. “On top of the fact that they don’t know what the antibodies mean. Still today, I don’t know what they mean.

“Once I clear this and go back into life, I assume I still need to be very cautious and I could be re-infected once again. There are just so many questions regarding this virus and what means what. I still don’t have clarity. The longer I get into this and the more issues I deal with, the more questions I have.”

He can’t return to racing unless he’s free of symptoms and has two negative tests in a 24-hour span. Justin Allgaier will replace Johnson in Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 48 Chevrolet and one team member — the mechanic in charge of Johnson’s cockpit — has been quarantined because he’s the only Hendrick employee to have come into close contact with the driver.

“Purely out of precaution, the interior mechanic was the one person we could identify who had contact with Jimmie or his suit or whatever,” said Jeff Andrews, the team’s vice president of competition.

A new race strategy also may be necessary.

Instead of starting fourth, the position Johnson earned in a random draw, Allgaier will have to drop to the back of the field because of rules regarding driver changes.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps said on NBC the series is hopeful Johnson can be back by next Sunday at Kentucky Speedway. The series does not test for the coronavirus and Phelps did not indicate Johnson’s positive result will change that.

“I think the protocols have actually worked really, really well for us,” Phelps said in the pre-race show. “Obviously, it is unfortunate that Jimmie is going to be out of the car this weekend. I think if you look at the procedures that we have in place and the policies that we have in place, really, to protect the drivers, the crews, our own officials and anyone who is working at the race track — the number of positive tests that we’ve had has been so, so far and few and far between.”

Johnson is the first NASCAR driver to test positive since the sport resumed in May. Two teams have confirmed that shop-based employees who do not travel to the track have had positive tests.

NASCAR granted Johnson a waiver to compete in the playoffs if he qualifies. Johnson is 12th in the standings, 63 points inside the playoff picture.

Meanwhile, back at the mountain home, adjustments are being made.

Johnson plans to watch NASCAR racing on television for the first time since he became a Cup regular in 2002, a potential preview of how retirement may look, while trying to figure out how to celebrate the holiday weekend and his older daughter’s 10th birthday.

“We’re very scared to be around them and interact with them, not to mention my oldest has her birthday coming up on the seventh,” he said. “We’re going to be celebrating inside our house, but it’s really been tough for our kids to grasp.”

AVSC coach Casey Puckett returns to U.S. ski team as women’s Europa Cup coach

Alice McKennis gave Casey Puckett the nickname “Five Time” while training at Copper Mountain in early June. This required an explanation for the younger U.S. national team skiers, as they weren’t all too familiar with Puckett’s past, which includes an impressive World Cup career and five Olympic appearances.

But for the 30-year-old McKennis, having Puckett around brought her back to her roots as a young FIS skier with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, when she worked directly with Puckett.

“I just kept having these moments where it was like a flashback to 15 years ago with Casey Puckett training on the same trail. It was really fun to have him there and have all those memories come back,” McKennis said. “He has such a great eye and a great understanding of what it takes to be an elite athlete because he was one.”

Puckett, who has called the Roaring Fork Valley home since 1999 and has spent a collective nine years coaching AVSC athletes, has returned to the U.S. ski team, but this time as a coach. The 47-year-old was recently named the head technical coach for the women’s Europa Cup team, a role that unofficially began with that Copper Mountain training camp last month.

AVSC has certainly had other coaches move on — and often back from — the national team, notably its current alpine director, Johno McBride, who helped lead the Americans through many Olympics, including the most recent Winter Games in 2018. Snowboard coach Nichole Mason left the Aspen club two years ago to take over as the slopestyle rookie team coach for the U.S.

“It says something about AVSC when the U.S. team is actively recruiting coaches from the club. It just shows you the level of coaches we have here,” Puckett said. “We have such a good group of kids here and they are a lot of fun to work with. They work hard and they are fast. It’s going to be hard to leave those guys. I’m going to miss them. But I think it will be good to move to this next level and see what’s out there.”

Puckett’s main job with U.S. Ski and Snowboard this season will be to help develop young skiers such as AJ Hurt, Katie Hensien and Alix Wilkinson. McKennis, a two-time Olympian from New Castle, is primarily a World Cup speed skier and won’t directly work with Puckett.

The Europa Cup team is a newer creation made by U.S. alpine director Jesse Hunt, who took over the role in 2018. Hunt was actually one of Puckett’s coaches back when he was an athlete, and it was Hunt who reached out to Puckett to bring him on as a national team coach. While the Europa Cup and North American Cup are deemed to be the same level on paper, in reality the Europa Cup is a step up from Nor-Ams and success there will make it easier for U.S. athletes to make the jump to the World Cup.

“If you are not going to that series and paying attention to that level, then it’s a little bit more difficult to make the step to the World Cup. His motto is to win at every level, so he hired me to come help do that,” Puckett said of Hunt. “You don’t often get a call from the U.S. team to coach. If I would have passed it by, it may not have been there again, so I went for it.”

Puckett was an alpine skier for the U.S. from 1991 through 2002, competing in the 1992, 1994, 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics. Most of his success came as a technical skier in the earlier part of his career — he took seventh in slalom at the ’94 Games in Norway — before he transitioned more into speed racing at the close. He coached for AVSC from 2002 to 2006 before returning to the national team, but this time in skicross, and competed in the 2010 Olympics before ending his career.

“Working with someone who has that understanding is unique and it’s not all that common within the ski racing world,” McKennis said of working with Puckett. “A lot of the younger generation — my teammates — aren’t as familiar with him and his background. So I think they were a little confused at first, like, ‘Why are you calling this guy Five Time?’”

Puckett returned to coach at AVSC in 2015, where he most recently was the club’s head U16 coach. He’s still going to call the Roaring Fork Valley home and believes a return to coaching at AVSC is possible down the road. He has two daughters, both high schoolers at Basalt and Colorado Rocky Mountain School.

Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there are a lot of questions about the coming ski season and if it will happen at all. The U.S. alpine team hopes to continue on-snow training later this month at Mount Hood in Oregon, and will likely look to Europe or South America for fall camps, should borders open up to them again.

The next Winter Olympics is tentatively scheduled for 2022 in China, where COVID-19 is believed to have originated from. The Olympics aren’t necessarily a given for Puckett and his Europa Cup squad, but he believes his athletes have a good chance of getting there. Especially considering the U.S. is currently thin in terms of technical skiers, with only Mikaela Shiffrin, Nina O’Brien and Paula Moltzan having established themselves at that level.

“There aren’t a lot of numbers there right now, so my girls, if they ski well, they’ll have a good shot at making the Olympic team,” Puckett said. “Honestly, it’s not a big jump. They are really not that far behind the girls that are racing on the World Cup.”

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Snowboarders Chris Corning, Chase Blackwell dish on new film, ‘Teal’

SILVERTHORNE — While driving south earlier this week for some wakeboarding in Texas followed by some dirt biking in Missouri, Summit County pro snowboarder Chris Corning chatted about his new snowboard film, “Teal.”

For Corning, a 2018 Olympian and multi-time International Ski & Snowboard Federation Crystal Globe season champion, it’s the 20-year-old big air and slopestyle rider’s debut movie effort.

Corning, who’s the producer and director of the movie, said last year he decided he wanted to make his first snowboard film. So he recruited friends such as street specialist Sam Klein, daredevil Windham “Lawndart” Miller, U.S. pro team halfpipe rider Chase Blackwell and others to collaborate with him for several months of filming this past winter. He enlisted filmmaker Alex Havey to shoot and edit the footage.

Corning said the movie is currently being edited and he hopes to release it in the fall. He said he decided on “Teal” as the name because the color reminds him of the kind of riders featured in the movie who, he said, may not be the biggest, most obvious names, but he feels are some of the world’s best snowboarders.

“Teal is kind of the color that has its own path,” Corning said. “It doesn’t follow too much. It’s its own color. The movie is about people who have their own path. And since we are not the mainstream riders, we want to show we are still some of the best.

“We want to show we have what it takes, the same riding potential, and can put together as good a movie as others can with the little bit of backing we have,” the 2018 X Games Norway bronze medalist added.

Corning said the movie’s crew began filming in December up in Duluth, Minnesota, where he, Klein and Miller stayed out for 11 days during the same month Corning stole the show with his four-rotation, five-inversion quad-cork 1800 trick in the Visa Big Air World Cup event in Atlanta. From there, Klein and some young riders featured in the movie stayed in the Midwest and filmed more street riding in Wisconsin.

“We hit a couple of really gnarly rails, tall, off some bridges and stuff,” Corning said. “We hit a basketball hoop. That was pretty fun. We just tried to, basically, whatever we had to hit be on par with every other movie we’ve seen up in the top categories we watched last year.”

Corning singled out a down-flat-down-rail he rode that was two-and-a-half stories long. On the first four tries he had to bail on the rail and ride down the adjacent stairs before he rode it through on the fifth try.

Using the basketball hoop’s cement stanchion as a ramp was his idea, something he spotted when the crew was driving around. So they built a ramp and landing, used a winch to tow riders in for the speed necessary to ride over the hoop’s backboard before landing in the court area. Corning himself executed a 180-degree spin on the hoop while rotating to his board’s backside.

Filming eventually brought the crew out to Jackson Hole in Wyoming in March, where Blackwell joined his fellow Never Summer rider Corning and the rest of the squad.

After his most successful international halfpipe season yet as a pro, Dillon resident Blackwell said the film’s backcountry riding near Togwotee Pass in Jackson Hole was a special experience outside of contest riding for him.

“We did hit this one jump off of a rock that almost looked like a kicker, and that was probably one of my favorite sessions,” Blackwell said. “Just everything about that whole session was very spontaneous. When a lot of people see that, I think they will be electrified with how crazy that feature looks. It was more of a natural feature, not anything we had to build or shape out.”

Inspired to film riding like much of Travis Rice’s shoots in Wyoming, Corning and the gang looked for their own spots in the hilly terrain. It was a 60-foot-long jump the crew built that stands out to Corning from the Wyoming backcountry session, as he landed four tricks that will be featured in the movie.

“My favorite part of that trip was being able to land so many tricks on a single jump in the same day,” Corning said. “That doesn’t usually happen on a powder jump. I think it will be different for people to watch. … We were doing definitely some of the hardest tricks I’ve ever done in the backcountry, some of the hardest tricks that have ever been done in snowboard powder.”

aolivero@summitdaily.com

Bike shops, manufacturers work to keep up with demand amid supply crisis

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Right as the clock hits 10 a.m., opening time, the phone rings at Orange Peel bike shop in Steamboat. The shrill tone comes from two separate phones that aren’t quite synced, giving the illusion of multiple calls coming in and adding to the sense of stress.

The phone rings four times in the next seven minutes.

Meanwhile, three people walk their bikes to the open door with questions about quick fixes. There’s really no such thing as a quick fix these days.

Orange Peel, along with every other bike retailer and repair shop in Steamboat Springs, is overwhelmed and overloaded. Demand is higher than ever for bikes as people look for alternatives to public transportation as well as something to do amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, since foreign and domestic factories and warehouses experienced long-term closures and slow openings, the supply for bicycles and some parts and accessories can’t keep up.

Bikes are the new toilet paper

Like toilet paper was in April, bicycles are hard to find now.

Public transportation has shut down in some places, cut back in others and become a more obvious health risk amid the COVID-19 pandemic. So, people are looking for an alternate mode of transportation. When resorts closed, gyms and studios shuttered their doors and the snow melted, cycling became an increasingly popular way to enjoy the outdoors and exercise safely under the stay-at-home order.

The demand for a pair of wheels is higher than it has been in years, reminding those in the industry of the recession in 2008, when skyrocketing gas prices prompted a huge surge in bike sales.

The NPD Group, a market research company, said April sales for bikes, indoor bikes and accessories grew by 75% to $1 billion, compared to the same time last year. The group noted that basic adult bicycle sales grew by 203% while front suspension mountain bike sales were up more than 150%. Meanwhile, stationary bike sales grew by 270% in April.

Local shops have seen those same trends. Harry Martin, owner of Ski and Bike Kare, said gravel bikes, front suspension mountain bikes, as well as e-bikes have been flying off shelves, with only e-bikes still in stock.

Ski and Bike Kare typically maintains a stock of 400 bicycles. Right now, they have about 100. Martin said his spring sale numbers are more than double compared to years past.

Ross Kirby, sales manager at Orange Peel, said it’s near impossible to find a bike under $1,500 dollars. Being a small shop, Orange Peel only orders a couple bikes in each model. If someone needs a different size, they’ll order it. At least, that’s how it usually works.

“For the person who wants to get into biking right now, it’s a bad summer to get into it,” Kirby said. “Sorry, but with the whole pandemic and lack of inventory from manufacturers, I don’t have anything to show you.”

Schwinn, an affordable bike brand, is sold out of all 11 types of mountain bikes it offers on its website. Of the 12 road bikes they offer, six models are sold out, while all but one model of their cruiser bikes are marked as sold out.

Spring and early summer are already busy times at bike shops. People will bring in their bikes for a preseason tune and as the season hits its peak, more people need more repairs or regular maintenance. That anticipated business already keeps shops busy, but now that’s reached a new level. Service appointments are booked up for weeks in advance, and walk-ins add to the onslaught.

Maybe satisfying the hunger for two-wheeled vehicles would be easier if the supply chain hadn’t taken such a hit.

A broken supply chain

Most bikes and their parts are made in Taiwan or China. While Taiwan avoided mass shutdowns, closures in China caused a huge hiccup in the supply chain. When many factories shut down, it came right after an expected pause in production for the Chinese New Year. That break, combined with weeks of closure, created a deficit in the supply, not only for bikes, but for bike components like shifters, handlebars, brake lines and more.

“It’s the weird basic stuff, like 26-inch tubes are out of stock, right now,” Kirby said. “Bike racks for cars are out of stock.”

At Ski and Bike Kare, Martin said he usually turns to one vendor to fill all his orders, but now looks to many to try to find what he needs.

“It’s a matter of going to 10 different suppliers to fill out an order,” Martin said. “Because one person has one thing, another has another thing.”

Of course, stores are still full of supplies and accessories for cyclists. A rider just shouldn’t be surprised if it takes a little longer for an occasional component to be shipped.

Thankfully, a lot of suppliers have warehouses on U.S. soil, but many of those are in California, which is operating at the lowest level possible due to a high number of COVID-19 cases in the state. There are far fewer employees working in those warehouses, meaning the supply that does exist is taking longer to tap into.

Both Orange Peel and Ski and Bike Kare have a few bikes coming in over the next few weeks since they put models on backorder earlier in the year.

Like cars, bikes come out with new models every year. Typically, this happens in the fall, but some brands will push out new models a little earlier. The stock of 2020 bikes is dwindling as companies prepare to push out the upcoming 2021 models. So until that happens, economy bikes in popular sizes will likely remain sold out.

Expensive is the exception

Higher-end bike manufacturers, such as Steamboat-based Moots, saw little change in the supply chain or sales.

Moots bikes sell for upward of $10,000, so the new or casual rider won’t typically purchase a Moots. The demand for high-end bikes hasn’t changed much with the pandemic, so Moots hasn’t seen a dramatic rise in sales, but did have a successful June, according to Moots marketing director Jon Cariveau.

The company hasn’t experienced much difficulty with shipments or supplies. Moots builds its bikes in Steamboat, bringing in the titanium tubing needed to construct the frame. Since Moots forecasts the need for tubing almost a year in advance, they have plenty on hand. Even though most of the bike components are Shimano or SRAM, brands that hail from Asia, Moots hasn’t experienced any delays.

“Both of those companies typically have a warehouse in the United States that’s really well-stocked,” Cariveau said. “The delivery of those really haven’t been too much of a problem. Those were mostly in-country when all of this started happening. We’ve seen, for us, not much supply chain interruption.”

Carbon fiber forks were the one part that was on pause for a while, as the factory that makes them in Taiwan had to close. For a few weeks, Moots was unable to get any carbon fiber forks to Steamboat.

“That was the only piece of the puzzle we saw get interrupted,” Cariveau said. “There are U.S. sources for that same style of fork, and we were able to substitute a little bit, but here we are, right back with really good supply on that front.”

sreardon@steamboatpilot.com

Aspen Cycling Club: Photos and results from Frying Pan Time Trial on July 1

ASPEN CYCLING CLUB — WEEKLY RACE RESULTS

Frying Pan Time Trial

From Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Mens A (22 Mile Course)

1 0:49:33 SHANKS, Cooper Team Mike Bikes p/b Equator

2 0:50:29 CARR, Chris STRAFE

3 0:50:30 GRAYBILL, Marshall Roaring Fork Cycling

4 0:52:08 PETERSON, Butch RFMBA Trail Agents

5 0:53:05 LEONARD, Scott Basalt Bike & Ski

6 0:53:08 STROKES, Greg STRAFE/RESQWATER

7 0:53:30 KELLY, Christian Limelight Hotel

8 0:53:32 CALLAHAN, John Limelight Hotel

9 0:53:48 BECK, George Basalt Bike & Ski

10 0:54:09 RALSTON, Andrew Basalt Bike & Ski

11 0:54:11 LEWIS, Joseph Wifey Racing/Shott Peformance

12 0:55:06 LOEFFLER, Alexander

13 0:56:22 KOSTER, Ryan Culver’s Glenwood Springs

14 0:57:24 OLIVER, Nick Basalt Bike & Ski

15 0:58:26 NEWTON, Tyler Hub of Aspen

16 1:01:27 PETERSON, Bryn CRMS

Womens A (22 Mile Course)

1 1:01:51 KNOTT, Courtney

2 1:03:06 TORY, Caroline Hub of Aspen

Mens B (22 Mile Course)

1 0:52:01 BUTTINE, Andrea Automatic Racing

2 0:52:56 ADAMS, Casey Basalt Bike & Ski

3 0:54:07 TUDDENHAM, Luke Basalt Bike & Ski

4 0:54:10 SULLIVAN, Danny Basalt Bike & Ski

5 0:56:12 DAVIS, Brad

6 0:57:13 ELLIOT, Simon Basalt Bike & Ski

7 0:57:15 PRATT, John

8 0:57:34 KLUG, Chris Hub of Aspen/Chris Klug Foundation

9 0:57:40 PERNA, Lew Great Divide Brewing

10 0:57:59 THOMPSON, Nigel

11 0:58:19 CHERNOSKY, David Groove Subaru

12 0:58:28 VOLONINO, Richard

13 0:59:24 SIRIANNI, Phil Basalt Bike & Ski

14 0:59:42 HERSHBERGER, Jonathan Hub of Aspen

15 1:00:50 FAURER, Patrick

16 1:01:00 FAAS, Michael Hub of Aspen

17 1:01:37 CIBULSKY, John Roaring Fork Cycling

18 1:01:57 WILLIAMS, Brian

Mens C (Sport) (13 Mile Course)

1 0:33:20 SELDIN, Chris

2 0:34:26 MERRILL, Nate Valley View Velo

3 0:36:57 MURPHY, Mark Basalt Bike & Ski

Womens C (Sport) (13 Mile Course)

1 0:34:03 SHAW, Sara Limelight Hotel

2 0:35:15 DIEMAR, Hayley Team Twenty20

Men 50+ (13 Mile Course)

1 0:31:48 LANE, Chris ACES

2 0:33:27 BURKLEY, Richard Limelight Hotel

3 0:34:09 ARMSTRONG, Mike Basalt Bike & Ski

4 0:35:41 CHILSON, Chip Aspen Sports Performance

5 1:07:31 GETTINGER, Mike

DNS GIBANS, Jon RFMBA Trail Agents

Women 50+ (13 Mile Course)

1 0:33:57 KELLY, Chris Limelight Hotel

Men 60+ (13 Mile Course)

1 0:31:15 LYONS, Steve Basalt Bike & Ski

2 0:32:10 KREUZ, Kevin

3 0:32:17 HANDWERK, Jeff

4 0:32:52 PAUSSA, Jim Hub of Aspen

5 0:33:22 BUTTINE, Chris

6 0:34:32 SLIVA, Glenn Ruedi

7 0:36:30 MURTAGH, Patrick

Men 70+ (13 Mile Course)

1 0:35:08 IRELAND, Michael Register. Vote 2020

2 0:35:24 CROSS, Ed Limelight Hotel

3 0:35:29 OLENICK, Bob

4 0:36:37 OVEREYNDER, Phil

5 0:36:53 GRICE, John

6 0:40:23 JONES, Larry

DNS ADAMSON, John Twisted Spokes Racing

Men 80+ (13 Mile Course)

1 0:40:30 HARRISON, Jim

2 0:54:00 HOUOT, Jacques Frenchy No Problem

High School Boys (13 Mile Course)

1 0:32:44 KELLY, Chase Limelight Hotel

— Race Marshals: Mary Jo Kimbro, Benjamin Gottlieb, Fritz Diether, Cathy Porter, Jon Gibans

— Results may also be viewed at www.aspencyclingclub.org.

— Questions about results should be directed to results@aspencyclingclub.org.

Steamboat’s Gilbertson returns to coach after 7-year hiatus from U.S. ski team

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Ten years ago, Chris Gilbertson was helping Johnny Spillane, Todd Lodwick, Billy Demong and Brett Camerota to historic podium performances at the Vancouver Olympics. After seeing such great success on the sport’s greatest stage, Gilbertson stopped coaching in 2013.

He’s spent the past seven years focusing on being a father of a now junior national Nordic combined team member but is now returning to coaching as head ski jumping coach for the U.S. men’s Nordic combined national team.

“Honestly, I missed the whole sport; I missed coaching the athletes,” Gilbertson said. “I had spoken with (USA Nordic Executive Director) Bill Demong about getting back into the sport somehow at some level.”

USA Nordic announced Gilbertson’s return to the sport last week in a news release in which newly-appointed Nordic Sport Director Jed Hinkley praised the decision.

“Chris is not afraid to share his opinion, which I value,” he said. “And I know nobody will work harder to help us achieve our goals in athletics and as an organization.”

Gilbertson didn’t expect to be hired to coach at the World Cup level right away but is certainly not complaining about the opportunity. Despite spending seven years out of coaching, he’s confident he can return without losing any ground. While technology and equipment might have improved, the sport itself hasn’t changed much.

“I feel a little bit overwhelmed but also really supported,” Gilbertson said. “The amount of people that have congratulated me has been unbelievable. I’m pretty excited to have all those people support me. I just hope I can live up to their expectations.”

Gilbertson wasn’t completely removed from the sport for the past seven years. His son, Gunnar, is a junior national Nordic combined team member and competes at a high level. Of course, Chris Gilbertson said he rarely allowed himself to go into coaching mode with his son, leaving that up to the staff at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

“We always tried to maintain a separate relationship in that regard,” Gilbertson said. “If he asked questions, I’d say, ‘Do you want the dad hat or the coach’s hat?’”

The USA men’s national team is almost an entirely new roster since Gilbertson last coached them, aside from Steamboat native and Olympian Taylor Fletcher. The rest of the crew Gilbertson hopes to get to know quickly. When he gets to Park City next week, he plans to sit down with the team and allow them to ask questions about him while he figures out what their goals are.

He wants the team to focus on qualifying for major events before worrying about performing well in them. Once they regularly qualify, then he will adjust the focus to earning points and placing well.

“My five-year goal is to get guys back on the podium again,” Gilbertson said. “That’s where the fun is, and that’s really the ultimate result that we’re trying for.”

sreardon@steamboatpilot.com

New law requires license to visit state lands like Basalt wildlife area, Beaver Lake

A new requirement by Colorado Parks and Wildlife for everyone 18 and older to have a valid hunting or fishing license to visit a state wildlife area will affect some high-profile sites in the Roaring Fork region.

The new requirement will affect stand-up paddleboarders and other watercraft users on Beaver Lake State Wildlife Area in Marble. It also will affect hikers on the vast trail network in the Basalt State Wildlife Area, wildlife viewers at Lake Christine, people who use gravel pull offs at certain areas along Fryingpan River and use of some boat ramps on the Roaring Fork River.

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission approved the new rule April 30. Area wildlife manager Matt Yamashita said Monday the requirement will likely come as a surprise to many people who use the state lands, so CPW is mounting an extensive education effort on social media, traditional media and signage.

“We’re seeing on all public lands increased public use,” he said.

It’s not just a phenomena caused by the pandemic, although that has contributed. Increasing population in the Roaring Fork Valley as well as Colorado in general is leading to more interest in using public lands.

Trails that used to have one or two hikers now see 30 or more, Yamashita said. While uses such as hiking in the Basalt State Wildlife Area or paddleboarding on Beaver Lake might not create a large direct cost for CPW, the agency incurs expenses maintaining those lands and providing access, Yamashita said.

Hunting and fishing license fees are the primary revenue source for CPW. It also receives funds from several programs through the U.S. Department of the Interior designed to enhance wildlife habitat. Requiring all users of state wildlife areas to pay to play is viewed by the agency as more equitable than the current system.

On the other hand, people now will be asked to pay to do something they have been doing for free for years, maybe decades. The Basalt State Wildlife Area, for example, is bordered by scores of residences on Ridge Road, Hillside Drive and Pinon Drive in the Basalt area, Yamashita said. Many residents are regular hikers in the state wildlife area.

Basalt resident Kelly Alford said she hikes the trails in the Basalt State Wildlife Area a few times per week.

“I love it up there,” she said.

Alford said she is aware of the new law but was already purchasing a license in recent years.

“I would be more than delighted to pay the $45 permit fee to support the state’s revenues,” she said.

CPW’s headquarters in Denver said in a news release that the new license requirement is intended to reduce unintended uses of the state wildlife areas, which were acquired to protect wildlife and provide access to wildlife-related recreation such as hunting and fishing. Some of the uses aren’t in tune with the intent of acquiring the land.

An annual fishing license is the cheapest option for frequent visitors to state wildlife areas, Yamashita said. The license for Colorado resident adults ages 18 to 64 is $35.17. A habitat stamp also is required for $10.13. Other add-ons are a $1.50 wildlife education fund fee and 25 cents for Colorado Search and Rescue, which covers the cost in case the license holder must be rescued from the backcountry. A fishing license for seniors is $9.85.

There are less expensive options for people who only need a license for a day or two.

Beaver Lake is probably the highest profile site in the region that will be affected by the new requirement. It’s located just a quarter-mile from downtown Marble, so it sees a lot of traffic. The new rule also affects both main areas of the Basalt State Wildlife Area, including Lake Christine and Toner, up Fryingpan Road. People who pull over to eat lunch at Lake Christine or along pull-offs owned or leased by CPW on Fryingpan Road now must have a hunting or fishing license.

In addition, people using the Carbondale boat ramp and the Sam Caudill boat ramp must have a license, even if they aren’t fishing. Any boaters who paid for a commercial use permit don’t have to have licenses for clients, according to Yamashita.

CPW also has lands on Williams Hill in the Old Snowmass area that will require a license for use.

CPW has 350 state wildlife areas and holds leases on nearly 240 state trust lands in Colorado. The hunting and fishing licenses cannot be used to access state parks.

Wildlife officers and other CPW workers will start checking for compliance starting Wednesday. At first, their focus will be on education rather than ticketing, according to Yamashita. The fine for violating the requirement s $139 with surcharges.

Fishing and hunting licenses are available online at www.cpw.state.co.us. They also are available at fishing guide shops and select sporting goods stores. Licenses are good from April 1 through March 31 each year.

scondon@aspentimes.com

Guts and glory — Crown Mountain’s new bike park offers something for everyone

Crown Mountain Park is putting finishing touches on a bike park that will soon attract everyone from little kids on Striders to pro cyclists performing flips while competing for cash.

There is an amazing array of tracks and obstacles courses laid out in an L-shade along the south and western edges of the 120-acre park in El Jebel. The bike park covers about 3.5 acres.

What started out as a volunteer-built BMX track tucked away in a corner in 2013 has grown into professionally designed park expected to draw an estimated 130,000 visits annually, said bike park director Nate Grinzinger.

“We have a lot of variety built into it,” Grinzinger said.

While touring the park, it’s best to keep your head on a swivel because there are so many eye-catching features. The Enchanted Forest features a narrow boardwalk elevated several feet off the ground. The boardwalks flow into natural obstacles such as giant tree stumps and lead to abrupt drops from varying distances.

A tamer singletrack trail features rock gardens and stretches of roots where mountain bikers of all levels can sharpen their technical skills.

In another section of the park, a dirt progression park features five lines of varying difficulty. The first line provides rolling terrain for riders to practice jumps. The third line features part dirt jumps and 11 wood jumps for ever-higher amounts of air. The jumps just get bigger in lines 4 and 5.

“We thought long and hard about the progressions,” Grinzinger said.

Nearby are two even bigger jumps with a large mound of mulch in the landing area. The soft landing provides riders with confidence to attempt flips and 360-degree twists. Grinzinger said he witnessed a 12-year-old practice 360’s on the mulch landing until he gained confidence to pull it off on wood ramps in the progression course.

Crews this week were adding asphalt to a dirt base of a course that features banked curves, various sized jumps and tabletops. The course has mirrored features so two racers can compete side-by-side. Asphalt requires less maintenance and provides the traction for race maneuvers.

BME Design, owned by Brian Trujillo of Glenwood Springs, is building the park. The cool thing about its crew is they frequently whip out their own bikes to test components and make sure they got it right.

Lead builder Damon Proffitt said some components look intimidating to riders at first, but everything was designed with options to make it very navigable. For example, dirt ramps lead to wooden platforms that drop into thin air. But riders can adjust their lines and take smaller drops or eliminate them altogether.

“You can roll this whole thing without leaving the ground,” Grinzinger said.

The cost of the park is $500,000, but Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District leveraged the $150,000 it contributed. The park received a Great Outdoors Colorado grant this spring for $168,000 and raised $182,000 through in-kind donations and sponsorships.

BME Design is racing to complete the job by July 3. Once completed, Grinzinger believes the park will pull in riders from across the state because there’s nothing else like it.

“Without debate, it is the most unique with the most variety,” he said.

New bike park manager Andrew Mann added his own twist to describe the park.

“I grew up building illegal bike parks in the woods,” he said. “Nobody had something like this growing up. This valley will produce a world class biker soon.”

scondon@aspentimes.com

Peak performers: Shiffrin, U.S. ski team return to snow for June camp at Copper

Mikaela Shiffrin rode the chair lift to the top of Copper Mountain on a sunny June day and took in a sight she hadn’t seen in a while: A freshly groomed, snow-packed course just waiting to be skied.

Paradise.

A little tropical, too, given the warm weather that had the carefully manicured slopes turning mushy by mid-morning.

Didn’t matter. It was just energizing to be back on skis.

The two-time Olympic champion and the rest of the U.S. women’s team, along with the men’s Europa squad, recently returned to snow for a two-week, pay-strict-adherence-to-social-distance-guidelines camp at Copper Mountain. This was a chance to zip through a course again after the season abruptly ended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Being back skiing, on the snow, it just felt like home,” said Bella Wright, who made her World Cup debut last season and has Aspen ties. “It felt like we were back doing what we’re supposed to be doing.”

The main objective of the camp that ended last week was nothing more than honing technique. For about three hours a day — beginning around sunrise — the team turned in run after run on the giant slalom course. Shiffrin and the other technical racers also were able to charge through some slalom gates.

“To get this training in during June is something we need because we missed spring training,” U.S. women’s coach Paul Kristofic explained. “It’s just great quality mileage in the bank.”

It marks the first time the team has been assembled in an organized setting since the 2019-20 season was halted in March just as the women’s squad was preparing for a World Cup race in Are, Sweden. Shiffrin was set to make her return to the slopes after taking a six-week break from the circuit following the death of her father. Federica Brignone of Italy captured the overall crown, ending Shiffrin’s three-year reign.

Several European teams have already returned to training: The Austrian men’s and women’s teams in Soelden, the Swiss team on the Zermatt Glacier, and the French in Courchevel and Val D’Isere.

French racer Alexis Pinturault posted a video on social media with the comment: “Sunny and Cold GS day in June.”

In the Rocky Mountains, more like sunny and warm.

Copper Mountain made it work, though. The resort is the home of the U.S. ski team’s speed center and has a crew up for the challenge — no matter the tricky conditions. The hill still had around a 60-inch base following their closure in mid-March due to the pandemic.

Given the varying temperatures, it was far from easy to prepare the three trails for the group. Some days, it would rain. Some days, it would be 50 degrees, with the course turning into a slimy, wet consistency.

Enter the course groomers, who worked their magic sometimes late into the night.

“It’s like grooming a slushy,” laughed Mike Looney, the senior slope maintenance manager at Copper Mountain. “But when the weather cooled down, it got a little bit better to manage and then it started setting up. By the time athletes hit the course in the morning, it was a nice, firm, race product again.”

Looney, who’s in his 23rd season at Copper, estimated the last time they groomed the trails at Copper in June like this was about 15 years ago, when they had spring race camps.

Their approach?

“You get a nightly game plan of where the thin spots are, where the wet spots are, and you fix them,” Looney explained. “Then, you do it again the next day.”

Shiffrin certainly appreciated the momentous efforts of the snowcat operators to make the training sessions possible.

“We’re one of the first sports that’s found a way to get training and it’s a huge production,” Shiffrin posted on social media. “For all people involved, it’s amazing they’re trying to pull this off.”

The team followed strict protocols, too, such as no more than two skiers on a chair lift at a time and facemasks worn everywhere (except when skiing). They also had one person doing the grocery shopping and limited contact to within their small bubbles — the speed team with the speed team and the tech squad with the tech squad.

Everyone’s temperature was taken twice a day.

There were no positive tests reported.

“To be able to train at Copper in the spring is something we’ve always wanted to do and to be able to achieve it in a really challenging situation with COVID is a real win for the team,” Kristofic said.

Some of the coaches and technicians live in Europe and couldn’t make it to the camp due to travel restrictions. Also, a portion of their equipment remains in Europe as well.

“We’re pooling our resources the very best way we can,” Kristofic said. “Of course, what an opportunity we had. We had to do this and take advantage of what we have on home soil, because it could very well be the only training we’re going to get.”

After the training sessions, the team took advantage of the nearby terrain. Some athletes went mountain biking. Others went for hikes or fishing. Wright preferred roller-blading, even logging 11.2 miles on one excursion.

“That was a workout in itself,” said the 23-year-old Wright, who hails from Salt Lake City. “Super peaceful.”

The ski team is hoping to hold another camp in July, possibly at Mount Hood in Oregon.

As for a World Cup season, Wright remains optimistic.

“I’m trying to just keep hope and know that somehow, someway we’re going to get to do what we love this year,” Wright said. “It might look a little different. But if we’re on skis, that’s a win.”