Stapleton Training Center launches in Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Stapleton Training Center launches in Aspen

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times

Dave Stapleton looked over at the teenage ski racer from Park City, Utah, standing at the start of a giant slalom training course at Aspen Highlands.

The skier gently moved her head from side to side as she visualized each turn of the course in her mind.

Then, she pushed away from the start and plunged down the classic, fall-line face of Golden Horn, working GS turns on a racing-firm platform of snow.

Stapleton smiled.

Serious ski-race training. Before Thanksgiving.

His visualization of a world-class training venue for the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club stretched out before him as he followed the skier down to where she stopped and met her coach.

Recommended Stories For You

Off to Stapleton's skier's right, final preparations on the mogul course were taking place on Powder Bowl on lower Thunderbowl, near where the chairlift provides direct access from the AVSC clubhouse and the Aspen school campus.

One day later, the same training slope on Golden Horn at the newly created Stapleton Training Center was filled with ski racers representing virtually all of AVSC's competitive divisions.

Stapleton smiled again.

Tuesday party

AVSC will host a grand-opening party for the Stapleton Training Center from 2 to 5 p.m. Tuesday at Highlands Pizza Co. at the base of Aspen Highlands.

"We want to invite the community, to thank the community for this incredible facility," said Barbara Frank, AVSC development director. "We're super-proud to kick if off Tuesday, and we're super-thankful to the people who have given their time, effort and money."

Stapleton, an Aspen skiing product who raced on the U.S. Ski Team and enjoyed a long career on the pro ski tours, was invited to lead an effort to consolidate the AVSC training programs and expand the training opportunities in Aspen.

With visions of a complex at Aspen Highlands, which already was linked to the AVSC base of operations via chairlift, Stapleton attacked the fundraising project like he formerly attacked slalom gates — with precision, direction and speed.

"At first, I made one phone call," Stapleton said of the base to the AVSC capital project. "I called a gentleman who has been a friend for a long time, he's been involved in Aspen a long time, and he absolutely loves ski racing."

Charif Suki.

"He wrote the first major check to get us started."

As the project marched on, Stapleton went back to the original benefactor.

He agreed to provide more if AVSC could match the amount.

"So we did," Stapleton said.

"People started to see what we were doing," he said. "Excitement was building. They were excited about the growth and development of the Aspen Valley Ski Club."

He said a core of six major donors provided the money to create the ski and snowboard training center at Aspen Highlands, including massive early-season snowmaking and grooming.

"We've had some other major donors," he said, with special thanks to Andrew Cader and John Bucksbaum, both also major supporters of the U.S. Ski Team.

"All of these people see the direction the club is going, and it kept building," Stapleton said.

Aspen Skiing Co. provided the platform.

"The Aspen Skiing Co. has been instrumental in allowing us to do this," Stapleton said. "Without their approval, we would not have been able to go out and raise this money."

By creating a multi-discipline training facility where multiple teams can train simultaneously, Stapleton said AVSC will be able to generate revenue for the training center's annual operations by renting lane space, training space at the facility.

Training revenue

"Initially this was all built for our kids," Stapleton said. "But the only way for us to make it happen for our kids is to bring in these outside resources, like these teams and national teams." Like the Park City Ski Team.

"We've got seven of our A-team athletes, our elite athletes, here training," said Jason Hey, the head women's coach for the Park City club. "The training has been unbelievable. What they've been able to do for us is priceless."

Hey said he and the Park City skiers came to Aspen Highlands to check out the conditions at the Stapleton Training Center.

"This time of year, typically we're not skiing yet," he said, adding that the club likely will send more elite skiers to the Stapleton Training Center next year.

"We've got Norway coming," said Cody Oakes, of AVSC, who has been coordinating preparations at the training center.

That's the Norwegian national ski team, preparing for the women's World Cup races in Aspen on Saturday and Sunday — Aspen Winternational 2014.

They will train at Aspen Highlands.

"The last few days, we've had coaches and directors for various national teams coming over to check out conditions," Oakes said.

Training for World Championships

Many international teams (men and women) are making reservations for training space at the Stapleton Training Center in advance of the 2015 World Alpine Championships, scheduled for Feb. 2 through 15 at Vail/Beaver Creek.

"The things that Golden Horn and Thunderbowl offer are terrain, length, steep, flats," Stapleton said, adding that teams have options at the Highlands venue.

"To have the best skiers in the world training in our backyard and our kids get to watch them train, … that's great," Frank said, adding that the Stapleton Training Center did not impact fees at AVSC.

"This didn't raise anyone's program fees," she said. "This is all independently funded by some very generous people in our community."

And the facility will help local families save time and travel expenses.

"The kids can train right here," Frank said, adding that the Stapleton Training Center is an ideal venue for the adaptive athletes of AVSC, including a strong contingent of Olympic athletes.

The venue includes plans for additional lifts to access different parts of the Stapleton Training Center.

"We're not done with this yet," Stapleton said. "We have plans for T-bars, Pomas (platter lifts) to separate the sections."

A special freestyle lift is envisioned to access the freestyle mogul course.

"The overall picture is huge. We couldn't be more excited in our first year to have this kind of reception," Stapleton said.

For Oakes, the Stapleton Training Center strikes a personal chord.

"For David and I, who grew up in the valley, this is a dream," Oakes said. "Our parents were involved with the club. I think they envisioned something like this, but they just never had the people in place to do it.

"But through the efforts of David (Stapleton) and Jeff Gorsuch, we've been able to see it to reality. It's the real deal."

dstrode@aspentimes.com