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Mother of All Ascensions keeps a Snowmass Mardi Gras tradition alive

Race to High Alpine restructured as nine-day event

Uphill racers make their way up Fanny Hill to Gwyn’s High Alpine during the Mother of all Ascensions event for Mardi Gras in Snowmass on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

The stoke is high for year 29 of the Mother of All Ascensions, a longtime Snowmass Village Mardi Gras tradition that brings costumed uphillers in pursuit of elevation gain and glory to the base of Fanny Hill for the race up to the High Alpine restaurant (formerly known as Gwyn’s High Alpine).

“I’m just so stoked, and thrilled, (and) grateful, blessed that we were able to pull this one together, because we haven’t missed a year,” said Andrew Bielecki, the event’s organizer. He’s been running the race since 1993, a year after it was founded by Patrick Long, Joel Gorton and Jeff Tippett.

“I’m so appreciative of those guys, that they created something that has brought me a lot of joy over the years,” Bielecki said.



The hoopla of years past will be a bit more subdued this year — no mass start at 7 a.m. on Fat Tuesday, no post-race party at the top.

Instead, Bielecki said the race has been “completely restructured” to meet the requirements of pandemic times.



Participants can complete the route any time (Fanny Hill to McNamara Ridge to Coffee Pot to High Alpine) during the nine-day race period, Tuesday to Feb. 24, and online registration will remain open up until the last day of the event. Uphillers will log their attempts using the IYR Virtual App; the famously well-appointed goodie bags and prizes will be available for pick-up at the Snowmass Base Village Conference Center Feb. 25 to 27.

Bielecki reduced the registration fee to $25 this year “because I know everybody’s struggling,” he said; it was $40 in advance and $50 the day of the event in 2020. $10 from every entry will be donated to Aspen Hope, a local nonprofit that offers mental health services throughout the Roaring Fork Valley.

There will be some familiar favorites in this year’s goodie bags — as for the details, “I would like to keep it a surprise,” Bielecki said. But there’s one new addition he said he’s especially excited to announce: two miniature bottles of liquor and a bottle of hand sanitizer from Marble Distillery in Carbondale.

“The goodie bag is worth the entry fee,” he said. “It’s a very generous donation from (Marble Distillery), and I’m so grateful and thankful.”

This isn’t the first time Bielecki has planned the race under difficult circumstances: He spent more than a decade coordinating the logistics from Canada after his visa expired and he was deported. He weathered that storm and coped with loss when his girlfriend died in 2012.

Through it all, the Mother of All Ascensions went on.

“These situations teach you to think outside of the box and adapt and grow, and, you know, that there’s some things that have come out of this that have been positive,” he said. “

Bielecki attributes the continuation of the tradition and the success of the event in part to the support of the local community.

“The town, this whole valley, the community, the people, they rallied and they just really supported me through this,” Bielecki said. “I went through some dark times up in Canada, … but without the support of this community, I wouldn’t be here and I don’t think this event would be going on. … I’m indebted to this valley for all they’ve done to help me keep this alive.”

To register for this year’s race, visit snowfusion.com.

kwilliams@aspentimes.com

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect a change to the event dates. The Mother of All Ascensions will begin Tuesday, not the originally-scheduled Monday, due to holiday weekend uphilling restrictions at Snowmass, according to event organizers.


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