On the hill: Racer chasers | AspenTimes.com

On the hill: Racer chasers

Madeleine Osberger
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

POWDERHORN – More local kids than ever are taking to the gates this season, Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club reports, with the J5 division (racers aged 10 and under) numbering nearly 60 members in its competitive and development programs.

While not all of the racers travel to events near and far, plenty of us parents schlepped over to Powderhorn on the Grand Mesa for what’s called the J5 Finale to watch our little Lindsey Vonns-in-the-making test their stuff on some long GS and slalom courses March 13-14.

From Palisade or Grand Junction, the trek up winding Highway 65 passes by orchards and farms, hoodoos and even some trailer trash. We spy deer grazing outside the burg of Mesa and a sign that warns of moose crossing. One morning, mist rises off the craggy rocks as the distant Bookcliffs wear a mantle akin to fresh vanilla cream.

Race parents get to visit a lot of cool resorts (I’m sure the novelty wears off eventually) but our on-snow time is usually limited to the groomed runs surrounding the race trails.

Last weekend was no different but a little maddening, considering the 7 inches of freshies that beckoned at 8 a.m. and the continuing shower of snowfall during the day. Over the past 10 days, the ski area has been blessed with more than 30 inches of new snow. After two visits to Powderhorn, a charming Midwestern-style resort with some under-appreciated terrain and grooming, we have yet to explore the steeper stuff off the West End Lift.

Because there’s so much time spent standing around on race day – 82 girls and nearly 100 boys from the mountain and central regions turned out for the finale – parents, as well as the kids, have plenty of time to strike up new friendships both inside the club and in ski towns from Vail to Silverthorne to Steamboat. Savoring welcome spring-like temperatures Friday evening on the deck of the Wine Country Inn, we toasted our new friends from Team Summit with some Palisade-grown vintages.

Powderhorn closes March 28 – a shame because there’s plenty of great turns to be had, including some accessed by the yearned-for West End Lift. We will return.

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