1 era ends, another begins on Aspen Mtn. this weekend
Skiers vs. riders on Aspen Mountain? Forget the hype.
The real question of the weekend is whether more beer will flow Saturday as a final salute to the skiers-only policy or on Sunday as a celebration of the end of the snowboarding ban.
“I bet there will be a few beers drunk here Saturday,” said Aspen Mountain manager Steve Sewell. “I might drink a few myself. It’s the end of an era.”
The Aspen Skiing Co. will officially end its snowboarding ban on Ajax with an opening ceremony Sunday from 8:30 to 9 a.m.
Skico President and CEO Pat O’Donnell, himself a snowboard rider, said he is “sympathetic” to people who wanted the ban kept in place, but removing it was the wiser business decision. The mountain no longer attracted business by prohibiting riders, and Ajax’s skier visits have dropped five of the last seven seasons.
“We really gave it a good run,” said O’Donnell.
The Skico is hoping to make a big splash with the changing of the policy. About 90 reporters representing publications ranging from The New York Times to Ski magazine are checking out the festivities.
The Skico won’t play favorites on the historic day.
“The first rider up is the first rider in line,” said Killeen Brettmann, Skico vice president of special events.
In other words, no one like O’Donnell or special dignitaries get the first gondola car reserved for them.
The Skico isn’t playing favorites when it comes to partying, either – bashes will be held at the ski area’s base both days.
The festivities for the 180 Spring Jam start at 11 a.m. Saturday with the second annual Wild Dash for Cash from the mountaintop to Gwyn’s restaurant. It’s been called a cross between a downhill ski race and a demolition derby.
There are no rules for the roughly 60 to 80 racers other than to be the first to make it down a course filled with obstacles, jumps and bumps. The first team with all four racers making it to the finish line will claim $2,500. A total pursue of $5,000 will be awarded.
A public barbecue and post-race party will happen from noon to 2 p.m. at Gwyn’s.
Freestyle riders and skiers will take center stage on Little Nell for the KickAspen Big Air Invitational from 3 to 4:30 p.m. World-class competitors will perform outrageous aerial jumps to claim the $5,000 first-place prize and $13,000 total purse.
Partiers can yell like hell – but only until 6 p.m., when the city requires that all post-competition outdoor revelry must end. There will be tables and chairs set up on the west side of the Silver Queen Gondola building for the crowd. Two bars will feature $2 beers from Budweiser.
DJ Jimmy will be spinning during the competition, followed by performances by Souls of Mischief and Pep Love of the hip-hop band Hieroglyphics.
Sunday begins with free donuts and coffee starting at 8 a.m. Prizes, including snowboards, will be given away in a drawing. The gondola will haul the first riders up promptly at 9 a.m.
The lower gondola plaza will feature booths where ski industry manufacturers will showcase their goods and retailers will demo equipment. Mountain tours will be offered to riders, a terrain park will be set up on Little Nell, and snowboarding rails will be available on the North American trail above Bonnie’s, where a barbecue will be held from noon to 2 p.m.
The big dilemma for Sunday will be where to ski and ride. That is also the final day of the season at Aspen Highlands. While many locals want to end Highlands’ season with a bang, they also want to witness the spectacle at Aspen Mountain.
“The thing to do will be to ski or ride Ajax in the morning and Highlands in the afternoon,” said Skico Chief Operating Officer John Norton.
The aprs-ski and ride party at the gondola plaza will feature Del the Funky Homosapien, Casual and Warsaw. But remember, no frolicking after 6 p.m.
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