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Going AWOL in Aspen

Chad Abraham
Tae Westcott hits the wall minus a ski, much to the dismay of the Vandals' guitarist Sunday night during the AWOL wallride and concert at the base of Aspen Mountain. (Mark Fox/The Aspen Times)
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At Sunday night’s AWOL Aspen wall-riding spectacle, it was hard to know which trick was more impressive: the disappearing snowboarder or the skier whose plank became part of a guitar solo.In the end, after an hour of music by punk band the Vandals, Avery Karas won an MS 210 C-BE chain saw for best crash. The Aspenite led off the snowboarders by riding up the event’s centerpiece, a 30-foot wall partially made of snow, over the rail and into where the band played. Instead of riding back down – or jumping, as some participants ended up doing – he descended the stairs.One of the next snowboarders up the wall hit his head hard upon landing, losing his hat and goggles, and the very next boarder landed on his backbone and limped off.”Played some weird places, but this takes it,” Vandals lead singer David Quackenbush said to kick off the show at the gondola in Aspen.Also drawing approval from the estimated crowd of 400 was the skier who wrecked atop the wall, lost a ski on the stage and slid down in a heap. Quackenbush grabbed the ski and laid it across the guitar strings during his solo near the concert’s end.

Taking it all in was Kristin Green, 8, of Philadelphia. Standing near her grandfather, Arthur Kafrissen of Aspen, she said she planned on staying for the whole event.”It’s really cool because it’s really hard to ride up something that tall,” she said.Muffin Mott, of San Francisco and Oregon, said AWOL Aspen, which was separate from the X Games, was a nice complement to its larger cousin at Buttermilk.”We did the X Games last night. This is a good follow-up,” she said.A man stalking out of the event had a different opinion, however.

“For an hour event? Not much,” he said when asked his thoughts. He didn’t pause to give his name.Pep Fujas couldn’t have disagreed more. The Sandy, Utah, resident won the $3,000 first-place skiing prize for the second straight year, while Jake Blauvelt of Truckee, Calif., took first place in the snowboarding division. Participants were judged on, among other things, their tricks and risk-taking.”There was a lot more competition this year,” said Fujas, 23. “I’m stoked: I just won 3 grand.”Joey Hanson of Aspen said he has been a fan of the Orange County, Calif., band – which has recorded such albums as “Live Fast Diarrhea” and “Hitler Bad, Vandals Good” – for a decade.AWOL Aspen is “definitely cool. Good entertainment,” he said, holding two Budweisers.

Sheathing his new power tool, Karas yelled that he was going to “cut everything, trees!”Asked about his disappearing act, he said he meant to stall atop the rail, but “I went a little further.”Fujas said he would likely be back next year to try for a three-peat.”Unless there’s powder somewhere,” he said.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is chad@aspentimes.com


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