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Outdoor Festival ropes in peak talent

Tim Mutrie

Some of the finest outdoor sport athletes in the world descend on Aspen later this week – as well as hundreds of aspiring outdoor recreationalists looking to learn from them – for the first annual International Outdoor Festival.

American Ed Viesturs, who has summited 12 of the world’s 14 8,000-meter (26,200-feet) peaks without bottled oxygen – and aims to be the first American to complete the task – headlines the group of athletes who will leading courses for participants as well as the general public Thursday through Sunday.

Topics for the Outdoor Festival include climbing and mountaineering, kayaking, fly fishing, mountain biking, skiing, paragliding and overall fitness, among other.

Climber and guide Jamling Tenzing Norgay, son of the Sherpa guide who first summited Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953, will also be on hand to lead climbing seminars as well as slide presentations about the Sherpa culture. Eric Simonson, leader of the successful 1999 expedition to locate George Mallory’s body on Mount Everest, will attend the festival to lead courses in mountaineering and expedition logistics.

The Outdoor Festival also features some renowned local athletes, including mountaineer Neal Beidleman, who was reunited with Viesturs on an unsuccessful attempt on Annapurna this past spring.

Husband and wife tandem Rishi Grewal and Tammy Jacques Grewal of Carbondale will lead several mountain-biking courses over the weekend. Rishi Grewal is a four-time solo winner of the 24 Hours of Moab and 1989 National Road Racing Champion, while Jacques Grewal ranks among the top women mountain bikers in the country. In 1996, she rode for the U.S. Olympic team in Atlanta.

Aspen skiers Anda Rojs and Katie McBride – past champions of the 24 Hours of Aspen – will lead courses in endurance skiing.

“I’ve been in the sports and entertainment marketing business for a a longtime and I though it’d be cool to provide an opportunity for folks to participate in a number of outdoor activities in a noncompetitive environment that’s geared toward learning,” Outdoor Festival founder and director Peter Johnson said of the idea behind the first such event.

“The idea is to create this form of exchange, where you’ve got world-class athletes, top-notch local athletes including world class, as well as the outdoor industry, so eventually it becomes this three-and-a-half day festival that deals with everything in the outdoors.”

Space is still available for courses, Johnson said. Interested parties should call 925-9000 for additional information. On Wednesday, The Aspen Times will run a special section which includes a complete schedule of events.

“But it’s starting to fill up pretty well,” Johnson said. “I’m really looking to provide a good experience for folks.”

Johnson said he hopes to establish a longstanding partnership between the Outdoor Festival and Aspen in the years to come.

“My belief is that if you’re going to build a strong festival and a festival that’s going to last, you want to do it in a community that’s going to support it,” he said. “It’s hard to put a level of expectation on this – because it’s never been done before – but the Aspen community has been very supportive, and the community at large has been pretty incredible.”

Johnson said Viesturs and Simonson’s Advanced High-Altitude Mountaineering Course (Friday, 1-3:30 p.m.) should be very popular among festival attendees, he said.

“It’s a great presentation and it’s a first of a kind,” he said. “Ed (Viesturs) is known for his expertise, and Simonson is the logistics guru, so together they bring some interesting perspective.”

Mountain-biking sessions with Rishi and Tammy Jacques Grewal are “pretty hot” as well, he said.


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