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Clubhouse Chronicles: At home on the AVSC’s Stapleton Training Center

The Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club kicked off our sixth season on the Stapleton Training Center at Aspen Highlands on Saturday, Nov. 9, with our earliest opening yet. It’s been an exciting couple of weeks on my morning commute up valley, waiting to come around the corner and see Highlands come into view, noting the progress each day: piles of snow building up and eventually flattening out to blanket the looker’s left side of Aspen Highlands.

For those of you who may not know where the training venue is, it’s the Golden Horn and Thunderbowl trails on Aspen Highlands. It’s long enough, wide enough, steep enough, and safe enough to run an International Ski Federation (FIS) sanctioned downhill race. It is an incredible resource, and one we’re so grateful to have in the backyard of the AVSC Clubhouse. But more than that, it’s home to our AVSC athletes.

The Stapleton Training Center is much more than an Alpine training and race venue, especially this time of year. Our teams come together to make a plan that works for everyone. This past weekend, there was plenty of open space to work on technique through freeskiing and drills. Our freestyle and snowboard teams slid rails and boxes and practiced their halfpipe tricks by launching off a quarterpipe into an airbag. Alpine racers trained in slalom and giant slalom courses. Mogul skiers tore through a line of bumps and jumps. We’re exploring solutions for our Nordic teams, who have had a few days on snow thanks to the city of Aspen and Aspen Nordic Council.

Training at home is a big deal for us. The value is unquantifiable; our athletes are able to maintain their normal patterns — school, sleep, family life — and get world-class, early-season training without leaving the Roaring Fork Valley. Aside from removing a logistical burden for families, it translates to substantial cost savings as well. There are very few mountains that are open for early-season training in Colorado (Copper, Winter Park and Loveland are the only others to my knowledge). This doesn’t mean that other clubs aren’t skiing; it means that they’re traveling. We are grateful to provide phenomenal training in the Roaring Fork Valley for our teams as well as visitors — national teams, ski academies and independent teams alike.

Many thanks go out to the team, both at AVSC and Aspen Skiing Co., that worked to get the venue into the incredible shape that it’s in. There’s no certainty around the schedule with venue preparation; a string of sustained cold temperatures is all it takes. This means that without much warning, our crew has to be ready to spring into action. From the initial surface preparation (blowing and pushing snow) to the venue preparation (grooming, building jumps, prepping the airbag) to the safety precautions (installing safety fencing), it takes a great deal of hands to successfully and safely kick off the season. Thank you to all who made it happen.

Happy winter!

Clubhouse Chronicles is a behind-the-scenes column written by the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club that runs periodically in the Outdoors section.

Paralympic legend Amy Purdy focuses on para community after recent health scare

COPPER MOUNTAIN RESORT — On Friday evening at the ninth annual Easterseals Colorado Season of Lights Gala in Denver, Summit County local and U.S. Paralympic legend Amy Purdy will receive the inaugural Jake Jabs Community Impact Award.

For an accomplished athlete and pop-culture star like Purdy, Friday’s honor will be the latest award in a jet-setting career where she’s been in the spotlight routinely — including as a participant on the “Dancing with the Stars” television show. That said, the Easterseals community impact award comes at a pivotal time for Purdy and the Adaptive Action Sports para-snowboard program she co-founded with her husband and Adaptive Action Sports Executive Director Daniel Gale.

On one hand, Adaptive Action Sports was the United States’ contingent at this week’s para-snowboard World Cup events in the Netherlands, as five athletes who train at Copper Mountain Resort continued their Paralympic dreams. Beyond the U.S., with more than 80 athletes and 17 countries on hand, it was the largest season-opening para-snowboard event ever.

On the other hand, Purdy — who lost her legs in 1999 due to bacterial meningitis — has surfed the struggle of another health complication over the past nine months. It’s one that disabled her from being able to use her prosthetic legs. In turn, the situation has paused her ability to snowboard.

“The last nine months were devastating,” Purdy said Thursday. “I’ve grown to be very attached to my legs as they are. Even my prosthetic legs are an extension of me. So after I spent so many years working up to where I am today, to think I could be losing that was difficult.”

Purdy said her health scare this year stemmed from a blood-clotting complication related to the wear-and-tear of walking and snowboarding on her prosthetic legs for many years.

When she receives the Jake Jabs Community Impact Award on Friday, Purdy will share with the Easterseals crowd the elements of community that have not only helped Adaptive Action Sports to grow but also have helped her to persevere despite her health complication.

Growing the sport

More than 80 athletes and 17 countries competing in para-snowboarding is a far cry from the para-snowboard world Purdy entered at age 19. Afterward, Purdy took the simple steps to merely snowboard again. Eventually, her effort and drive spawned Adaptive Action Sports and enough interest in para-snowboarding to compete at the Paralympics and to attract many more World Cup participants and divisions.

“It is really amazing,” Purdy said Thursday. “I will tell you, when I started it was just me in Las Vegas, dreaming of snowboarding again. But I had to build my own (prosthetic) feet to snowboard. There were no resources out there. But I connected a few people online to take a snowboarding trip.”

Fast forward a decade and a half, and the simplicity of Purdy’s digitally organized snowboarding trip has evolved into Adaptive Action Sports partnering with Dew Tour to operate para-snowboarding competitions. That includes this coming February’s Dew Tour at Copper Mountain. Purdy has been an elite competitor at those Dew Tours, including in Breckenridge last December.

With para snowboarding growing while Adaptive Action Sports has been based in Summit, the organization has provided opportunities for dozens of para-snowboarders — whether they have Paralympic ambitions or hopes to use the opportunity in a more cathartic recreational way. Through it all, the Summit County and greater Colorado communities have repaid Adaptive Action Sports with community support in the same spirit the organization provides.

“It’s completely taken on a life of its own,” Purdy said. “It’s amazing and makes me think, ‘If something doesn’t exist, you can create it.’”

“Any little kid now who has a disability can look on TV,” Purdy added, “watch a Paralympic Games and think, ‘If they can do that, I can, as well.’”

Due to the health complication, Purdy’s snowboard career came to a sudden stop just three months after December’s Dew Tour. Less than a year after Purdy won silver and gold medals at the 2018 Pyeongchang Paralympics, she again experienced a life-changing moment in Las Vegas.

While flying from one speaking engagement in Las Vegas to another in Nebraska, Purdy noticed a cramp in her left calf. By the time she woke up in Nebraska, her leg hurt so badly she decided to jump on another plane to return to Denver. When she did, she checked herself into the emergency room at St. Anthony Hospital to make sure the pain was nothing serious.

But it was. Purdy then found out about the massive blood clot from her hip down every artery in her left leg. Purdy said she and the doctors believe it was the end result of an injured artery behind her knee due to constant pressure from her prosthetic. As she went through the four-surgery process to remove the clot and stretch out her arteries affected by the trauma of her blood clot, Purdy’s frustration mounted. She’s used to doctors being able to fix things and, in this case, it wasn’t so simple.

“But I eventually sank into, ‘I’ve been here before; I can do it again,’” Purdy said. “‘I have preserved before. I can do it again. I can find a way or adapt.’”

Purdy said a day-by-day approach to her prosthetic-less situation has helped her mentally. With that, she said she’s progressed significantly in recent months. Purdy’s hopeful the next step is to make a prosthetic leg that will enable her to exercise on a spin bike. She hopes that will help her build muscle to improve blood flow. If and when that’s successful, she hopes to be strong enough to be able to walk in a prosthetic. And, best case scenario, it’ll all lead to snowboarding again.

aolivero@summitdaily.com

Vail Mountain to open Friday with 70 acres of terrain for skiing, riding

On the heels of the largest snowmaking expansion project in Vail Mountain’s history and in North America, Vail is set to open on Friday with a reimagined opening day terrain experience, offering skiers and riders approximately 70 acres of terrain accessed via Gondola One in Vail Village starting at 9 a.m.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to kick off the 2019-2020 winter season at Vail on Friday,” said Beth Howard, Vail Mountain’s new vice president and chief operating officer, in a company news release. “Thanks to our enormous snowmaking expansion project, we have an entirely new early-season terrain package available this year, and we can’t wait for our guests to experience the difference. I’d like to extend a huge thank you to our mountain operations teams for their hard work this summer and fall to make it all possible.”

New for this season, Vail will open skiing and riding out of Vail Village, with upload and download access to the Mid-Vail area via Gondola One. The resort will offer skiing and riding terrain for all ability levels on trails accessed by Mountaintop Express Lift (No. 4) out of Mid-Vail including Swingsville, Ramshorn, Slifer Express, Cappuccino, Upper Powerline, Lower Meadows, beginner terrain out of Golden Peak’s Gopher Hill Lift (No. 12) and Sherry’s Carpet (No. 33), and the connector trail between Golden Peak and Vail Village.

As part of the Opening Day festivities, Vail’s COO Beth Howard along with snowmaking project leaders will perform a celebratory ribbon cutting on one of Vail’s new state-of-the-art snow guns at the base of Gondola One at 8:30 a.m.

This year’s Opening Day will unveil Vail Mountain’s entirely new and enhanced early-season ski experience, made possible by this summer’s massive snowmaking expansion project — the largest in Vail Mountain’s history and the largest one-year snowmaking expansion in North America. Nearly 200 acres of new and enhanced snowmaking terrain this season, in addition to the previously existing 431 acres of snowmaking terrain, provides guests with access to higher elevation terrain, a broader variety of trails, and improved early season ski school terrain. Vail will continue to make snow across the mountain at every opportunity as weather and conditions permit, and look to expand open terrain as soon as possible.

Complimentary breakfast burritos and hot cocoa will be provided in Mountain Plaza at the base of Gondola One for early risers on opening day, while supplies last. Express Lift Bar will be open in Mountain Plaza as well. For dining on the mountain, Look Ma at Mid-Vail and Buffalo’s at the top of Mountaintop Express Lift (No. 4) will be fully operational starting at 9 a.m.

In support of its major snowmaking investments on the mountain, Vail will also be kicking off exciting new traditions in the early season this year:

Vail Après

Beginning on Opening Day and continuing every day throughout the season, bells will be rung at 3 p.m. throughout Vail Village, Lionshead Village and on the mountain, signifying the start to après-ski: a time to celebrate the day’s achievements on the mountain and come together with the community to enjoy the post-skiing experience. During Vail Après, guests will enjoy unique offerings such as champagne toasts, signature food and drink specials, and retail promotions. Vail Mountain and the Town of Vail have partnered to bring this experience to life, distributing bells to local merchants and community partners to ring each day at 3 p.m., in homage to Vail’s European Alpine heritage.

Revely Vail

This Thanksgiving, Vail is debuting its new holiday tradition: Revely Vail, a week-long celebration to kick off the holiday season and the 2019-2020 winter ski season. From Nov. 23-30, Revely Vail will offer family-oriented activities throughout Vail Village, including cooking classes, ice skating, a Gingerbread Contest, Explosion of Lights and a Kris Kringle Market. A signature 10th Mountain Legacy Parade will also take place along the streets of Vail on Friday, Nov. 29, honoring veterans and commemorating the unique legacy of Vail’s founders.

Early season and uphill access

All guests are reminded that they must observe all posted signs, closures and slow zones, especially during the early season. Closed trails may contain hazards due to early snow coverage. Accessing closed terrain is a violation of the Colorado Ski Safety Act and will result in the loss of skiing privileges and could involve prosecution and a fine.

During the early season, uphill access routes will be very limited and are subject to change and/or close on a daily basis. Uphill access is currently closed. For the safety of guests and employees, all uphill access users are required to call the Uphill Access Hotline before accessing the mountain at (970)-754-3049. For more information on the resort’s uphill access policy and guidelines, including designated routes during winter operations, visit our Safety Info page here.

Lift tickets

The ticket and season pass offices located in Vail Village, Golden Peak and Lionshead will be open daily beginning on Nov. 15 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information about Vail Mountain visit http://www.vail.com, stop by the Mountain Information Center, or call (970) SKI-VAIL (754-8245).

Vail Ski & Snowboard School

Beginning Friday, the Vail Village and Golden Peak Ski & Snowboard School will be open. Walk-ins are accepted. For the best price guaranteed, guests are encouraged to book in advance online at http://www.vail.com or by calling (970) SKI-VAIL (754-8245).

US Ski Team to host key fundraising event in Vail in bid to be fully-funded

VAIL – River Radamus is feeling blue, and he’ll tell you all about it on Thursday.

The U.S. Ski Team is hosting one of its most exclusive fundraisers in Vail on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.; Yama Sushi will host the event and a suggested donation of $500 or more should get you in the doors.

The team is about $150,000 short of being fully funded for the season, which is not bad considering they have a packed schedule this year on several continents – 44 men’s events at 22 venues and 41 women’s events at 21 venues.

Vail ski racer Kyle Negomir is set to compete in his first full season on the circuit as a member of the U.S. Ski Team’s B Team. By winning the North America Cup overall title last season, Negomir earned invites to every World Cup event this season.

“It’s all new to me, but there’s also a lot of events that will be new to everyone this year,” Negomir said. “There’s a speed event in China and a tech event in Japan. All sorts of cool places.”

Getting around won’t be cheap, but this year the ski team is better funded than in years past. U.S. Ski Team veteran Tommy Biesemeyer is helping to organize the event; he said while the $150,000 goal sounds steep, the team is feeling good about its situation this year.

“That’s what the ski team needs in order to fund the athletes on the A through C teams,” Biesemeyer said. “The D Team is also funded. They have a capped fee of $10,000, which is actually a huge improvement from my time on the team.”

‘Moving in the right direction’

Twelve years ago, when Biesemeyer was on the U.S. Ski Team’s D Team, the development team, the fee for him to compete was $30,000.

“Now that they’re just paying a fixed price of $10,000 … It’s moving in the right direction,” Biesemeyer said.

Biesemeyer said guests to Yama Sushi on Thursday will hear a few stories from his early days, as well as stories from some of the other veteran competitors on the team. Ted Ligety and Steven Nyman might be there, and Mikaela Shiffrin could show up, as well, Biesemeyer said. Shiffrin’s 2019 Alpine World Championships slalom suit, which she was wearing when she won the gold, will be up for auction, along with several other high-value items.

“It’s an opportunity to get to know each other and get an idea of who you’re supporting,” Biesemeyer said. “I think once you get to know us, hear our stories, the passion and determination is very clear, and it’s contagious, and I think people really feed off of that energy. And visa versa, the support from the ski community is huge. It makes this dream possible.”

Top destinations

Radamus said during his first full year of World Cup competition last season, he saw in the U.S. Ski Team a group of determined young men who took nothing for granted.

“This is their dream job,” Radamus said. “And they don’t take that lightly. … We go out there and work our butts off because we’re representing our nation and we’re representing everyone who supports us along the way.”

And getting there, to the bulk of the World Cup events, is just a little more difficult for Americans, something Radamus said he also saw first hand during his World Cup experience last season.

“If you’re in Europe, you’re a four-hour drive from basically every World Cup,” he said. “If you’re from the U.S., you have two events in North America and then you’re over in Europe.”

And when you’re in Europe, you’re really in Europe, visiting some of the nicest places imaginable.

“We’re in Val d’Isère, France; Kitzbuhel, Austria, and all these amazing places, and we’re really lucky, but it’s not cheap,” Radamus said. “We work really hard for it.”

Radamus said heading into this season, after all his time spent among the Euro-fashionistas abroad last year, he was ready to change up his look.

He said he’ll tell you all about it on Thursday.

The event takes place from 6:30-8:30 p.m.; Yama Sushi is located in the Solaris Plaza in Vail. For more information or to make a donation to the team, visit one.bidpal.net/alpinefundraiser.

jlaconte@vaildaily.com

Stapleton Training Center at Aspen Highlands has earliest opening in history thanks to cold temps

Before the Stapleton Training Center opened at Aspen Highlands in 2014, young ski racers from the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club would have to spend a lot of time on the road in order to find early-season training.

“We had snowmaking on the lower half, but that doesn’t do any good if you can’t ski to it,” AVSC race director Pat Callahan recalled of Highlands. “That’s the biggest thing, is we would be at Copper Mountain or Loveland or A-Basin until definitely December. In November, there was no training here.”

But when a group led by Aspen skiing icon Dave Stapleton came together to make the AVSC-run training venue a reality, new doors were opened for skiers everywhere. Snowmaking was added to the upper portion of the current training area, which is located predominantly on the Golden Horn run, a game changer for the club athletes.

And this season has been especially good, with colder-than-normal temperatures allowing for the earliest start in its six years of existence. The Stapleton Training Center officially opened for business Saturday, which is roughly a week earlier than normal.

“It was over 100 hours of really good snowmaking temperatures,” said venue manager Cody Oates, adding they had their 24 snowmaking guns going nearly 24 hours a day for nearly a week late last month. “It’s always risky to make snow in October, but this year, with those six days of cold temperatures, and with cooperation with Aspen Skiing Co., we were able to put over 10 million gallons of snow on the hill, which has allowed us to have all of our groups using the hill right now.”

According to Oates, the only race-ready training venues currently open in the state are at Copper Mountain, where many members of the U.S. Ski Team are training, Loveland Ski Area and at Aspen Highlands. And not only is the Stapleton Training Center equipped with slalom and giant slalom courses, but there are moguls for freestyle skiers, as well as rails, jumps and air bags for freeskiers and snowboarders.

“Obviously I could go elsewhere. I’ve been elsewhere. And this is just as good as Copper right now, but better because it’s just us up here. It’s pretty relaxed,” said Crested Butte ski racer Tanner Perkins, an FIS-level athlete who trains with AVSC. “We are able to do drills all the way across the whole hill, opposed to having one little lane with one course. We can get a lot more accomplished.”

This past weekend it was mostly just the AVSC skiers taking to Golden Horn. By the end of this month, it also could be hosting some of the best skiers in the world. As they’ve done every year since the venue opened, the Norwegian national team is expected to make a stop in Aspen for training ahead of the Dec. 6 to 8 World Cup races at Beaver Creek. Led by two-time Olympic medalist Henrik Kristoffersen, the Norwegians have been considered the best in the world in recent years.

“It’s kind of been their home away from home for the last six years and they love it. They come back any opportunity they can,” Oates said. “It’s not like Copper or Loveland where there is a ton of different teams renting out lane space and you’ve got Henrik Kristoffersen with his No. 1 competitor looking over his shoulder seeing what he’s doing. It’s pretty secluded here.”

The seclusion has become a big draw for a lot of high-level skiers and snowboarders. As well as the Norwegians, the Swiss men’s national team is expected to make a visit soon, as are the Chinese national freestyle team and a handful of university teams.

“The most special part about it is it’s kind of quiet. We are not looking to maximize the lane rentals at all,” Oates said. “They like coming here because they are kind of left alone, there is plenty of space. It’s not super, super high stress.”

The venue isn’t only for training, either. Aspen Highlands will host FIS races Dec. 9 to 13 for men and women, and will host the U.S. Alpine Tech Championships March 28 to 31, a first for Aspen in 60 years, an event AVSC is helping run alongside Aspen Skiing Co.

In the meantime, the local club athletes have the hill to themselves thanks to that October cold spell.

“We are lucky enough to be training at home. It’s great to just be here,” said Torey Greenwood, AVSC’s head men’s FIS coach. “It’s beautiful. It’s hard, good race conditions, I would say. It’s safe, because it’s just AVSC athletes so you don’t have to worry about the public and that stuff. But conditions are great and training is sweet.”

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Skico officials continue to watch weather before deciding if Aspen Mountain will open early

Officials at the Aspen Skiing Co. will continue to monitor the weather this week before announcing if they plan to open Aspen Mountain earlier than its scheduled Thanksgiving day start.

Skico vice president of communications Jeff Hanle said over the weekend the October snow was a good base.

“We need a change in the weather pattern,” Hanle said Saturday. “We’re getting good snowmaking in the evenings, but we need some more natural snow up top.”

Skico received approval this year to add 53 acres of snowmaking at the top of Aspen Mountain, but that won’t start until next season.  It will cover One and Two Leaf, Silver Bell, Dipsy Doodle, Buckhorn, North American and Copper Trail. When it starts, that will improve early-season top-to-bottom skiing in the future.

Aspen Mountain and Snowmass are scheduled to open Nov. 28. Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk are slated to open Dec. 7.

“We will have to see if the weather pattern changes like they’re saying in the middle of the month,” Hanle said.

A number of Colorado resorts opened or are set to open early, and for some it marks their earliest ever.  Arapahoe Basin opened first on Oct. 11, followed a few hours later by Keystone. Winter Park opened Nov. 2, its earliest start in its 80 seasons; Eldora had its earlier opening when it started spinning Nov. 1, two weeks ahead of schedule.

Copper Mountain and Breckenridge opened Friday, and Steamboat Springs announced it will open Nov. 15, its earliest ever opening.

The Aspen Water Department’s unofficial weather report showed that the water plant  received 26.5 inches of snow in October. That made it one of the snowiest Octobers ever since records were kept starting in 1934-35.

The average snowfall for the month is just shy of 9 inches. Aspen’s record snowfall for the month is 41.45 inches in 1984-85. The last time the water plant recorded more snowfall in October than this year was 1997-98 when 27.7 inches fell.

Aspen Mountain is coming off one of its longest seasons ever (168 days). The mountain opened five days early on Nov. 17, 2018, with 180 acres of top-to-bottom skiing and riding, and offered about 100 acres during the Food & Wine Classic in mid-June.

After “closing” on April 21, Skico reopened the top of Aspen Mountain for four weekends starting with three days over Memorial Day Weekend. There was a 66-inch base for the reopening during the holiday weekend.

Last season was the first time since 2008 that Ajax was open for skiing during the Classic, with riding on Saturday and Sunday (June 15-16).

Aspen Highlands opened for two bonus weekends in April after its scheduled April 14 closing. Highland Bowl picked up 102 inches in March, helping with the late-season base.

Video: Sunday morning sunrise on Maroon Bells, pond hockey on Maroon Lake

Sunday sunrise, hockey at the Maroon Bells

Take a minute to enjoy the sights of Sunday’s sunrise on the Maroon Bells and the sounds of hockey echoing in the valley. https://bit.ly/2NyPq37

Posted by The Aspen Times on Sunday, November 10, 2019

You likely have seen the pictures on social media or heard about the pickup pond hockey and skating going on at Maroon Lake the past few weekends near Aspen.

Sunday morning, we made the early-morning drive up the Maroon Creek Road to the Maroon Bells scenic area and came across a few hardy souls braving the chill at 7 a.m. for some skating.

The road is scheduled to close Friday for the winter.

On the Fly: Right place, right fly will yield right results

Rocky Thickstun, my go-to Louisiana guide, made a comment in the marsh last week that stuck with me. I would argue this applies even more to fishing here in the Rocky Mountain West.

“You can have the right fly on, but it has to be fished the right way in the right place. You can have the wrong fly on, but if you fish it the right way and the right place, you’ll be successful.” This kind of blew my mind. Rocky has a way of doing that.

Here in Colorado, the trout tend to get hyper-focused on the distinct phase in the life cycle of a particular insect, so having the “right fly” can be pretty darn important. But if that “right fly” isn’t where it is supposed to be in the water column or is behaving in an unnatural way, that fly tends to get refused. On the flip side, if your fly choice isn’t correct but is delivered on a silver platter (where and how they want to see it), things can generally work in your favor.

It really is all about “presentation” when casting a fly at a trout (or a 30-pound redfish). More than once I’ve seen a redfish show interest in my fly but ultimately sulk away because something didn’t look right. This doubly applies to wary Roaring Fork Valley trout. Once a fish has been fooled a few times, which most have around here, they tend to ignore what looks unnatural or imperfect.

This is mostly about your “drift” in the trout game. Essentially, your offering needs to appear unattached to you, the angler. Your fly needs to look like it’s just floating merrily downstream like the naturals, and not attached to a person standing on the bank. If your dry fly or indicator are keeping perfect pace with the various bubbles on the river surface, you’re mostly there. Use your powers of observation the next time you’re on the river, and keep it “natural” out there!

This column is provided by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374.

Feeling ‘comfortable’ on big stage, Aspen halfpipe skier Cassidy Jarrell ready to make X Games push

Cassidy Jarrell’s first World Cup competition came two years ago at the Copper Mountain Grand Prix, which also happened to be one of the U.S. Ski Team’s qualifiers for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Then an 18-year-old senior at Aspen High School, Jarrell found the stage a bit daunting. He failed to put down a complete run and finished 39th out of 40 skiers.

That, however, was a long time ago. Going into this season, he feels he’s finally ready for that kind of atmosphere.

“Much more comfortable,” Jarrell recently told The Aspen Times. “I’m friends with most of the guys now. I used to feel like I didn’t belong, but now I feel like I’m right where I need to be.”

Now 20 and working alongside coach Peter Olenick, himself an Aspen freeskiing legend, Jarrell is poised to become one of the town’s next great halfpipe skiers, following in the recent footsteps of 2018 Olympic silver medalist Alex Ferreira and two-time Olympian Torin Yater-Wallace.

Jarrell is on the U.S. Ski Team’s rookie squad for the upcoming season.

“Working with Peter is a dream. He has been through the industry, so he knows more of the competitive side that involves your mental. Not just your skiing ability,” Jarrell said. “It’s going to be a good year, I can tell.”

Jarrell continued to take steps last winter, his second on the World Cup stage, making finals in three events, his best finish being seventh in Secret Garden, China, in December 2018. He opened the 2019-20 winter season by taking 18th in a World Cup event in Cardrona, New Zealand, in September.

Should things go well for him in the two upcoming World Cup events in December, bigger things could be on the horizon, such as an X Games Aspen invite.

“He’s super close to being on that Torin, Alex level, which is awesome. It’s been awesome to watch him grow and get better,” Olenick said. “Cass right now is on the verge of being one of the last couple of guys getting invited. Depends on how his early-season competitions go.”

The next World Cup competition happens to be the Copper Mountain Grand Prix, with men’s halfpipe skiing qualifiers scheduled for Dec. 11 and finals for Dec. 13. After that, it’s back to China for qualifying Dec. 19, and finals two days later. Secret Garden is a host site for the 2021 World Championships and the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Olenick, who also coaches Aspen 16-year-old Tristan Feinberg, sees both of the rising locals being in that Olympic mix two winters from now.

“My main goal is to get both of them in the Olympics in 2022,” Olenick said. “And the path they’ve been on and the training they’ve been doing, I think, is really good and they have a good shot at it. It’s still a ways away, but those next two years will go by quickly.”

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Scott Mercier: Tackling my first century ride with the White Rim Trail in Utah

There isn’t such a thing as an easy century ride — 100 miles on a bike is just hard. And riding 100 miles on a mountain bike adds several layers of complexity and difficulty.

The White Rim Trail, near Moab in Utah, is a 100-mile loop on jeep trails and dirt roads sandwiched on a plateau between the confluence of the Colorado River and Green River. It’s the perfect maiden mountain bike century with just over 7,000 feet of climbing, and I’d never ridden 100 miles on a mountain bike in one go.

My Telluride dad, Bill, who helped raise me and encouraged me to race bikes rather than go to law school or business school, has wanted to do the White Rim with me for years. His idea was that I would ride, and he and my mom would drive a support vehicle.

My two biggest concerns about the ride were figuring out my nutrition and not blowing up for the last 30 miles. I figured I’d be burning roughly 800-900 calories an hour and that the ride would take about nine hours or so. Eating over 7,000 calories is really difficult, so I needed to ride at a pace where I could consume body fat as a fuel source, called the fat burning zone. The fat burning zone is at a relatively moderate intensity. As you get more anaerobic, you start to consume sugars. I also figured I’d need to eat and drink about 400 calories an hour. I settled on bars, Nutella and peanut butter sandwiches, and Dr. Allan Lim’s recipe for homemade rice cakes loaded with bacon, eggs and salt. I mixed in some Mexican Cokes for sugar and caffeine and watered down Scratch for extra calories.

The White Rim Trail is a loop, so my first decision was whether to ride clockwise or counter-clockwise. The internet seemed to indicate that riding clockwise was the preferred direction, so that’s what I did. The next decision was where to start.

My parents are 78, so driving 100 miles on rough, dirt roads and jeep trails was going to be a long day. I looked at the map and decided to start at the closest point to Moab, which is where the road from Mineral Bottom intersects the paved road heading into Canyonlands National Park.

Both of these decisions proved to be fortuitous. Just as I was getting bottles on my bike and putting my shoes on, a group of eight fit looking guys rode by. They were about a half mile up the road when I finally got going, but I didn’t want to ride nearly 10 hours alone, so I chased them down. Less than a mile into the ride and I was already well out of the fat-burning zone! However, drafting other riders is much faster and you conserve energy.

It took me about 15 minutes of hard riding to catch them. They were doing the entire loop, but self-supported, which meant they were loaded down with food and water.

Several of them had ridden the White Rim multiple times, so they let me know what to expect, including the fact that you need a permit to ride the White Rim, and I didn’t have one. Fortunately, they had a group permit and offered to let me use theirs.

Just after we entered the park, we took a left onto the Shaefer Trail road. The road drops towards the Colorado River like a stone and has incredible views and switchback after switchback carved into the sandstone cliff walls. We were ripping the descent and the adrenaline put a huge grin on my face. The road isn’t technical, but there is little room for error with the high speeds and exposed drops of over 500 feet.

We regrouped at the bottom and shed layers of clothing. The next 30 miles or so were spectacular. We were riding on a ridge just above the Colorado River. The rim of the cliffs had a white hue, which must be where the trail got its name. It looked as if the red and yellow sandstone had been bleached.

Bryson Perry, a two-time Leadville 100 winner and former professional on the road, was one of the riders in the group. He’s 40 now, and still quite fit, but humble and now involved in the youth development of the sport. It was fun to share stories of the peloton and to hear about the young riders making an impact on the cycling scene. Having someone to talk to was a nice distraction and the miles flew by.

The first real climb of the day was Murphy’s Hogback. It’s not long, at only a mile and a half, but it’s very steep, with pitches well over 20%. It hadn’t rained in awhile, so the surface of the road was covered in 2-3 inches of powdery dust, which made it slippery. We regrouped at the top and waited about an hour for my parents to arrive in the truck. As soon as they got there, I loaded up my pockets with food and bottles and told mom and dad I’d see them at the finish.

We did the ride on the same weekend as Burning Man, and a group of 20-30 people were having their own Moab style Burning Man party. They were all in costume and dancing. As we rode toward them they formed a human tunnel for us to ride through as they cheered and clapped.

By mile 70, we were riding along the Green River toward the final climb at Mineral Bottom. The road was sandy and we had a slight headwind. Our group had split and most of us were riding alone.

The Mineral Bottom climb is a mile and a half at an average gradient of 11%. By this time, I was nearly out of water and was well past the point of enjoyment. I just wanted to get the climb over with and get off my bike.

However, since I had started at the highway, I had to ride the 15-mile dirt road at the end of the day. My trapezius muscle was cramping from the jarring of a washboard road and the pain felt like someone was jamming an ice pick into my shoulders. The road was a series of stair-step climbs that seemed to go on forever. Those final miles were pure misery. I wanted nothing more than to get off my bike. My mom and dad passed me with about 5 miles to go and gave me a few water bottles and then drove off to the parking lot.

I finally crested the final climb and had a short descent back to the truck. After 7 hours and 42 minutes of riding, I pulled up to the truck. My dad handed me a towel to wipe off the dust and a cold beer to celebrate. White Rim in a day! I can’t wait to ride it again.

Good riding!

Scott Mercier represented Team USA at the 1992 Olympic Games and had a five-year professional career with Saturn Cycling and The U.S. Postal Services teams. He currently works as a private wealth adviser in Aspen and can be reached at scottmercier24@gmail.com.