Bell Mountain Buck-off rumbles on the ridge in Aspen on Sunday

The Aspen Times ran this photo of the Bell Mountain Buck-off on closing day 1983. The original caption read, "The Bell Mountain Buckaroos, the Aspen Flyers and others were in position for the annual Buckoff on the Ridge of Bell on closing day at Aspen Mountain."
Aspen Historical Society, Aspen Times Collection |


What: Bell Mountain Buck-off

aka Rumble on the Ridge

Where: Ridge of Bell on Aspen Mountain

When: 1 p.m. Sunday

Aspen Mountain’s season was extended by a week, but one of the oldest ski traditions will stick to Sunday as planned.

The 46th annual Bell Mountain Buck-off will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday on the Ridge of Bell, according to Mark Hesselschwerdt, one of six charter members of the Bell Mountain Buckaroos ski gang.

There was some debate on when to hold the event after Aspen Skiing Co. recently decided not to close the ski area until April 23.

“We’ve got people that have already planned on being out of town next Sunday,” Hesselschwerdt said.

So the tradition will continue as planned on the original closing day. If it just so happens that skiers also get together for a run down Ridge of Bell next Sunday, all the better, Hesselschwerdt said.

Some Aspen Mountain loyalists insist the event is called the “Rumble on the Ridge” to more accurately reflect its roots.

“It started by being just a couple of gangs showing up on the Ridge at the same time,” Hesselschwerdt said. Those gangs were the Buckaroos and Aspen Flyers back in April 1971.

Some rivals contend the Buckaroos commandeered the name, but the rivals refuse to recognize it. After all, one skier good-naturedly noted, the Bell Mountain Buckaroos don’t even ride the Bell Mountain lift except to participate in the “Rumble on the Ridge.” Therefore, they don’t deserve naming rights, the skier suggested.

For several seasons after the event’s start, the rival gangs would try to outshine one another on the slopes. Now, by any name, the event is a gathering of ski buddies celebrating another season.

“On a good year, there will be 300 people skiing and 300 people watching,” Hesselschwerdt said.

Other Aspen ski gangs, the Dogs of Bell and Bobs, always represent well. Aspen Skiing Co. will run the Bell Mountain lift on Sunday only, according to Rich Burkley, vice president of mountain operations.

The event is a “free-for-all,” mass ski down the Ridge of Bell trail promptly at 1 p.m. This season’s Buck-off might feature a surprise via Boyd’s Bump, Hesselschwerdt hinted.

After the shared run, the participants go their own way.

“It’s one and done,” Hesselschwerdt said.

Some seasons it has been moved elsewhere on Aspen Mountain for lack of snow on Bell Mountain. Sometimes the weather has been horrid. This year, neither snow cover nor weather appears to be an issue.

Hesselschwerdt said five of the six founders of the Buckaroos still get together just about every Sunday to ski. One member now lives elsewhere but visits as often as he can.

Membership in the gang has ebbed and flowed since formation. “You’ve been welcome to join if you can keep up,” Hesselschwerdt said with a chuckle.

While the Buckaroos plan to show up in force Sunday, he couldn’t help ribbing their old rivals. The members of the Flyers, he noted, are a few years older and might not show up in great numbers.

“Time has taken a toll,” he said.