Outside in Aspen symposium explores the risks and rewards of adventure | AspenTimes.com

Outside in Aspen symposium explores the risks and rewards of adventure

Scott CondonThe Aspen TimesAspen CO Colorado
Courtesy of ACRACyclists participating in last year's Outside in Aspen symposium cruise the back roads of Pitkin County. The event gives participants access to world-class athletes that lead groups in various sports. This year's event is June 10-12.

ASPEN – The second annual Outside in Aspen event this weekend will feature a panel of world-class athletes discussing the risks associated with extreme sports. Some real experts on the topic have been corralled by event organizers Outside Magazine and Aspen Chamber Resort Association.Panelist Ben Stookesberry was undertaking an unprecedented kayak trip on a river in the Congo in late 2010 when a crocodile snatched and killed one of his colleagues, legendary kayaker Hendrik “Hendri” Coetzee.Climber Melissa Arnot has reached the summit of Mt. Everest five times and recently lost a climbing partner on the world’s highest peak.Aspen’s own telemark skiing star Nick DeVore was caught in an avalanche on the mountainside above Ashcroft this spring and broke his femur.Those athletes and others will discuss why they do the things they do in a free, public event called, “The Outer Limits: The Risk and Rewards of Extreme Adventure.” The discussion is Sunday from 2:30 to 4 p.m. at the tent at the Gondola Plaza in Aspen.(Aspen resident and mountaineer Neil Beidleman was scheduled to participate in the discussion, fresh off his return to Mt. Everest, but he was double-booked with a family vacation. The family won out.)Stookesberry and two colleagues took on the challenge of kayaking the Lukuga River in the Congo last fall. The trio were well aware of the dangers: crocs and hippos in the water, wild African elephants on the banks, untold whitewater hurdles and potentially dangerous natives. They were careful when they entered and exited the river, and stayed in tight formation while in the water. Their precautions weren’t enough to prevent tragedy. A crocodile pulled Coetzee out of his kayak on Dec. 7. He was never seen again.Stookesberry said there are risks involved every day in life, whether you’re working in a cubicle or embarking on international expedition kayaking. Granted, the number and severity of risks are different, but so are the rewards.He said the death of his father, when Stookesberry was 20 years old, and the loss of a good friend in a kayaking accident four years later, helped mold his outlook on his own risk-taking.”From my point of view, it’s so much more fulfilling to live your life to chase a dream,” he said. His dreams include seeing some of the most beautiful places on the planet, running some of the wildest whitewater and drawing attention to important issues, like the damming of rivers around the world for hydroelectric projects and other developments.”We all have limited days on the planet,” Stookesberry continued.In an era when every act is potentially scrutinized by mainstream and social media, risky expeditions and extreme sports undertakings can go virile in an instant – and create instant fame. So does that exposure entice extreme athletes to push the envelope?”I think it would be silly to say it’s not a motivating factor,” Stookesberry said.The question for each individual is: Does the exposure create an obligation to do something you wouldn’t normally do, or does it provide motivation to give it your all? “It’s all in the way that you frame it,” Stookesberry said.Outside in Aspen will give paying participants a chance to taste the outdoors with some of the world’s greatest adventurers, without necessarily taking huge risks.”Outside in Aspen is slated to be a Food & Wine type event for outdoor enthusiasts,” said Maureen Poschman of Promo Communications, which is handling some of the public relations for the event. “Just like Food & Wine brings in some of the best chefs and winemakers, Outside in Aspen brings in top adventure-sports pros.”Those pros, along with Aspen guides, will lead outings, from kayaking to mountaineering and cycling, on Saturday and Sunday, June 11 and 12. For $100 per day, a participant can partake in kayaking with Stookesberry or cycling with former bicycle racer Tyler Hamilton, who recently gained notoriety by going public with claims that Lance Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs during his days of dominance at the Tour de France. Filmmaker and mountaineer Michael Brown and photographer and adventurer Pete McBride will also lead sessions on their crafts.The $100 a la carte price includes the adventure, lunch and transportation, plus it provides access to parties connected to the event.Poschman said the snowpack and runoff is creating some alterations in the events. The fly-fishing event was canceled. Trail running and mountain biking will require some flexibility. Hiking up Castle Peak, one of Colorado’s peaks above 14,000 feet in elevation, is still planned, with snowshoes. Rafting is a go.The agenda also includes free events on both days.”It’s a perfect opportunity for Aspen and Roaring Fork Valley locals to kick off their summer seasons by either learning a new sport or improving on an existing sport with the best local and visiting guides and pros,” Poschman said.Complete details on the event and a schedule are available at http://www.outsideinaspen.com.scondon@aspentimes.com

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