Silverboom celebrates 35th anniversary in style | AspenTimes.com

Silverboom celebrates 35th anniversary in style

Charles Agar

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

Aspen, CO ColoradoSNOWMASS VILLAGE Thirty-five Nordic ski racers joined the 35th annual Silverboom race at the Snowmass Cross Country Center Saturday. Aspen locals Pierre Wille took first for the men and Natalie Ward took first for the women.The race has come from humble 1971 origins of wood, bamboo and wool to high-tech composite materials, ultra-light skate skis and tight stretch Lycra. But it’s still all about having fun. The mood at the sunny starting line was light and friendly, like a group of friends gathered around a holiday punch bowl. But after competitors lined up by speed and reputation, it was nothing but the shush and click of gear against snow, the racers like a train of feisty insects making their way across the open field.After a 200 meter shakedown on an oval track, the competitors circled the lower end of the golf course before tackling the hilly section. Wille set the pace, dragging a straggling pack behind him as he posted a 15-minute first circle and a 31-minute overall. Ward finished in 35 minutes.The Silverboom is just the second event in the Aspen Town Series and a mere warm-up for many serious competitors in races nationwide.Jim and Fay Ward, Natalie’s parents and passionate about the sport, started the Silverboom in December 1971. Some 200 racers came out for that first event.”A lot of citizens came out to try it out that first year,” Fay said. The sport was not just for racers, she said. Anyone who had the rudimentary wooden gear joined in to see if they could complete the 10K course.The original race went from Snowmass to Aspen, but over the years has had many incarnations, including one year under the lights on a groomed course at Wagner Park in Aspen. And in 1976, Aspen’s year of no snow, they held the race on Independence Pass.Because there were so few races in the early days, the Silverboom attracted Nordic skiing greats like Bill Koch of the U.S. team as well as visiting teams from Europe, Jim said.Wool knickers, high wool socks, wood skis and bamboo poles of the old traditional style of racing were the norm, and while the race today is all business, the atmosphere is still friendly, with a lunch spread after the 12K and a 1K kid’s race at noon.John Campbell took part in the second race in 1972 and has missed only a few over the years.”It’s a lot of fun and friendship,” he said, calling the annual race a treat.Wille was greeted at the finish line with hugs from his two children, Josie, 7, and Hazel, 8. He first won the race twenty years ago and said despite the tough hills it was a perfect course yesterday. His wife Beth said he doesn’t always win “but it’s fun when he does.”Harry Teague, age 62 from Basalt has been racing in the Silverboom since 1974. “I made it. I finished,” he said with a gasp at the finish line. The 12K fun race is a great way to kick off the season, he said, but like many of the racer’s Saturday, Teague is working up to the Berkebeiner, a 55K race in Wisconsin.”It’s the Mecca of cross country skiing,” he said.Organizer Mark Kincheloe was pleased with the large turnout Saturday, but said there were more to come as the Town Race Series continues with the Ashcroft Skate on Dec. 30, followed by the Aspen High School Classic Jan. 28.The February 10 Owl Creek Chase is a 25K “super tour” and a requirement for Olympic hopefuls. Amateurs will get a 10K head start and will cover a 15K course.For more information see: http://www.aspennordic.com.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com.