24 Hours of Aspen teams set
A field of 10 two-person teams will compete for the title of “World’s Toughest Skiers” when the 24 Hours of Aspen endurance ski race returns to Aspen Mountain Dec. 17-18.
Teams from Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Ireland and the United States and Aspen are slated to race in this year’s race, which for the first time features a $50,000 purse to be divided amongst the winners.
Like the event’s name suggests, the 24 Hours of Aspen is a race of attrition. The race course follows the path of least resistance straight down the gut of Aspen Mountain, and teams race continually from noon Dec. 17 through noon of the next day, resting only during the 14-minute gondola ride back up Ajax. Top teams typically complete about 90 two-plus-minute laps down (then up) Aspen Mountain’s 3,267 vertical feet.
Professional free-skier Asia Jenkins of Aspen will be the sole competitor from the valley in this year’s race. Jenkins will represent the Aspen women’s team, along with Heather Paul, a professional skier from Crested Butte.
Most of the competitors raced for their national ski teams, though just two of 20 competitors this year have competed in the 24 Hours before.
“In past years, we have found that repeating teams tend to get better with experience, so with all the new racers this year, it’s anybody’s race,” said Killeen Brettmann, vice president of event marketing for the Skico.
“The competition is fierce and the field is loaded,” she added.
More than 800 volunteers from the valley community help to pull the event off each year, tuning skis, cooking pasta for the racers, or “catching” skiers as they charge into the gondola building to go up for another lap. An informational meeting for volunteers is scheduled for Oct. 18 at the Aspen Club Lodge from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The meeting will also cover volunteer opportunities for the women’s World Cup races in Aspen scheduled for Thanksgiving weekend.
The 24 Hours of Aspen event has always served to benefit local charities, raising more than $3 million since its inception 12 years ago. This year’s event will benefit Challenge Aspen, a local organization that provides recreational and cultural experiences for individuals with mental or physical disabilities, and the Aspen Valley Ski/Snowboard Club’s scholarship program, which ensures that youngsters in the valley have access to snow sports, regardless of their financial situation.
As in years past, ESPN will broadcast parts of the race, and new this year, the event will be Web-casted over the Internet at http://www.24hoursofaspen.com.
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