Skico to `go for it’ on 24 Hours race
They have the lights. They have the cameras. Now Aspen Skiing Co. officials pray they can say “Action!” when it’s time to start the Gulfstream 24 Hours of Aspen endurance ski race Dec. 12.
With less than two weeks remaining before the start of the race, the Skico has decided to gamble that unseasonably warm temperatures and clear skies won’t force cancellation of the popular event.
“Unless something drastic happens, we’re going for it,” said Skico Vice President of Operations Mike Kaplan. “We hope that these storms coming Wednesday and Friday hammer us.”
If the storms don’t materialize, that would definitely qualify as “something drastic.” The race can’t be held without help from the Aspen Mountain snowmaking crew and, especially, Mother Nature, according to Kaplan.
The Aspen Mountain crew has made snow the last two nights in Spar Gulch. “If it stays cold, we’re just a few nights away” from getting Spar covered, Kaplan said.
But at least one foot of natural snow needs to fall as well because the snowmaking system doesn’t cover terrain to the top of Aspen Mountain, he noted. There is no snowmaking above the Deer Park area.
The Skico’s leap of faith has to be backed with cold, hard cash. The company recently had to decide whether or not to order the 33 stadium-style, pole-mounted lights needed to illuminate the course at night.
The order was placed and the equipment is being transported by trucks from Musco Lighting’s Iowa headquarters, according to Killeen Brettmann, Skico vice president of special events and sponsorships.
Ordering the lighting equipment was a $100,000 commitment, according to insiders. Brettmann wouldn’t confirm the figure, but she acknowledged the lighting is the biggest expense for the race.
Once the lighting arrives, it might have to go into storage for a while. There isn’t enough snow on Aspen Mountain yet to transport the equipment by Snowcats and snowmobiles, Brettmann said.
The 24 Hours of Aspen is entering its 12th year. Gulfstream has been the title sponsor the last two years.
This year’s race – from noon Sunday, Dec. 12 to noon Monday, Dec. 13 – will feature 11 teams from around the world, including Peter McBride and Bryan Sax of Aspen. The Aspenites are one of only two returning teams.
And for the first time since 1991, no women racers have entered the event.
Hundreds of volunteers have already signed up to help run the race, but latecomers will never be turned away, Brettmann said. To volunteer, call 920-0969.
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