Stapleton Training Center hits full speed | AspenTimes.com

Stapleton Training Center hits full speed

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times

The Stapleton Training Center at Aspen Highlands launched into high gear this week.

The Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club training facility at Aspen Highlands, on the slopes of Golden Horn and Thunderbowl, is a beehive of activity since it opened for the season last weekend.

AVSC skiers and snowboarders have been training on the manmade snow along with the first visiting clubs to rent training space from AVSC.

And the speed will pick up from here. So will the skiers.

Walt Evans of the Aspen Valley Ski Club showcased the multiple-use training facility this week — an on-snow training venue for alpine ski and snowboard racers and freestyle/mogul competitors.

The facility, which opened for its inaugural operation last year, serves the Aspen Valley Ski Club competitors with early training opportunities.

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After one year, Evans said the training facility has customers lining up to train at Aspen Highlands.

This week, for example, the U.S. Adaptive Ski Team has been doing gate-training on Golden Horn.

The Park City FIS racers, the top juniors, also have been training at the AVSC facility at Aspen Highlands.

Cody Oates, the manager of the Stapleton Training Center, said several World Cup teams who tried out the facility last year are planning to return.

The Norwegian women's ski team and the Swedish women's ski team have been at Highlands this week, running gates not far from where the AVSC athletes are training.

With the lack of snow across Europe, Oates said additional World Cup teams are booking time at the Stapleton Training Center.

The Norwegian men's team will join the Norwegian women at Aspen Highlands for training, even though the men's team doesn't have a technical race in North America.

Additional World Cup skiers are expected at Highlands as the Aspen Winternational women's World Cup races return to Aspen on Friday, Nov. 27.

Three days of racing are scheduled for Aspen Mountain with a giant slalom on Nov. 27, a slalom on Nov. 28 and another slalom Nov. 29.

Having the World Cup skiers at the AVSC training venue is a boost for the AVSC athletes, according to Evans.

He commended the Aspen Skiing Co. for the cooperative work for the early training opening at Aspen Highlands.

The venue also features a giant airbag for freestyle training.

Athletes were launching up the kicker jump and flying onto the airbag, practicing approaches, takeoffs, tricks, etc.this week.

Evans said Aspen is scheduled to host 54 FIS and USSA events this season, from the World Cup down through the juniors.

Many of the events will include the 550 competitive athletes in the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club this year.

In all, AVSC will serve some 2,500 youngsters throughout the valley.

Evans said AVSC wanted to showcase the facility after it was up and running this season.

"We are there now. We're proud of this," Evans said, adding that more than $2 million in work has been done at the training center by AVSC.

Grading was done two years ago to create a better transition from Golden Horn to Thunderbowl, across what formerly was a bowl.

He said the expansive snowmaking system, directed by John Kirkham, worked to perfection once the colder temperatures hit.

The system on Golden Horn and Thunderbowl is fed by 23 surface water hydrants that supply water to 21 on-mountain snow guns.

They include three large towers as well as moveable snow fans.

Four huge, 500-horsepower pumps drive the water through the more than 6,000 feet of pipe.

"We were able to hit it hard when we got the (cold temperatures)," Evans said. "It's a very efficient system. An expensive project … but well worth it."

He said the snowmaking provides a terrific race base for training, which will draw more World Cup teams.

"We feel we have the best combination of real estate, surface and terrain … in North America," Evans said.

AVSC also leases its own snowcat for grooming specific to the Stapleton Training Center.

Dean Stapleton of the Stapleton family was on hand this week to help showcase the Stapleton Training Center.

Dave Stapleton helped lead the drive for the completion of the center at Highlands.

dstrode@aspentimes.com