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24 hours of ‘fun’

Bob Ward
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” I can’t say for sure why I agreed to do the 24 Hours of Sunlight last weekend. The idea of skinning 1,500 vertical feet up a mountain and skiing back down repeatedly over the course of an afternoon, an entire night and another morning doesn’t sound like “fun,” at least not on its face.

But now that I’ve done it, I can say that it’s one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in many long years of outdoor sports. As one member of a five-person team, I logged six laps up and down Sunlight Mountain, around 9,000 feet of climbing. It was a hefty bit of exercise for the likes of me, but nothing compared to the superhuman endurance machines who soloed the whole thing (stocking caps off to Eric Sullivan and Brian Johnson, especially!).

But many of the rewards of the race, many of the images that still flash through my mind days later have nothing to do with the physical activity. I’ll never forget the late-night banter in our team condo as everyone lay awake bundled in their sleeping bags in the dark, trying in vain to get some shut-eye, but still flying on adrenaline and encouraging fellow teammates as they shuffled in and out for each lap. I’ll remember the bobbing headlamps, strangely beautiful floating above the snow at night, as skiers slogged uphill or schussed down. I’ll never forget the view of Mount Sopris at sunrise on that miserable fifth lap, or my cheering kids as I entered the finish area on my final (and considerably faster!) sixth lap.

I entered the 24 Hours race at the last minute when a friend’s group lost a team member to a back injury. I hardly knew most of the team, but having completed this surreal relay together, I now have a whole new set of bosom buddies ” forged in sweat, sleeplessness, homemade lentil curry soup and frantic, starting-area baton handoffs.

We ate together, whined together, skied together (in a manner of speaking), suffered together and celebrated together when it was over.

And, for a hodgepodge of reasons I still can’t quite articulate, I’ll probably do it again in 2009. Congrats to the event organizers for an impressive job on a strange and extremely cool event.

The Aspen Skiing Co. reported no new snow on local slopes over the past 24 hours in its Friday morning snow report.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center report for Friday, Feb. 19:

The avalanche danger for the Aspen zone is overall moderate. Remember that at a moderate rating means human-triggered avalanches are still possible. In the right location, some of these triggered avalanches have plenty of potential to be large and dangerous events. Be careful out there.

Go to http://avalanche.state.co.us/ for the full report and information on conditions statewide.


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