Town Race Series kicks off this weekend at Aspen Highlands |

Town Race Series kicks off this weekend at Aspen Highlands

Aspen Highlands, once hailed as the resort with a dirt parking lot and a Star Wars bar, now presents a more polished facade, with a new base village complete with heated roads and walkways.

But in between the new base area and its ever-expanding boundary at the summit, Highlands harbors a few old-school trophies in the history of skiing: the nation’s oldest freestyle skiing series and oldest town race series.

This weekend, the 23rd annual Aspen Times Town Race Series kicks off with giant slalom races on Saturday and Sunday. A sign-up party is scheduled for today at 5 p.m. at Iguana’s at the base. (New and returning racers may register for this weekend’s races, as well as the entire six-race series, as late as the morning of the races at Iguana’s.)

Scott Nichols, race director for Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands, said the local town race series was founded in 1980. A year later, Nichols, a three-time veteran of the 24 Hours of Aspen who remains an avid racer, took over the event and has been running it ever since.

“The only thing that’s required is a good attitude,” Nichols said. “In a town like this, you have such a diverse group of people. We have former Olympians and national team racers, to lawyers and doctors, to the last of the ski bums. Every kind of skier can participate.”

The series features a recreational league and an advanced league. Each division races a total of three slaloms and three giant slaloms, starting this weekend and continuing until March 22-23 with five other race dates.

Open to beginning alpine racers, as well as snowboarders and telemarkers, the rec. league races on Sundays, starting at noon.

“It’s open to the never-ever racer,” Nichols said. “Anybody who would just like to come out and be challenged and meet some new people. That’s the format.”

The advanced league, which targets experienced racers and strong skiers, races on Saturdays, beginning at 11:30 a.m. “It’s longer courses and more technical too,” Nichols said.

The morning of each race, registration will be available at Iguana’s from 8:30 to 10 a.m. Individuals may register for $20 per race, or $110 for the series. Teams of six may register for the entire series for $550.

All races will be staged on the Golden Horn/Thunderbowl run just above the base of Highlands, finishing in front of the deck of Iguana’s.

In addition to the town race series, the Golden Horn/Thunderbowl run will also host several speed events this winter. The Rocky Mountain Master’s super G and downhill is scheduled for Feb. 21-23, followed by the John Meyer Memorial Downhill Feb. 28 to March 2.

“That’s for the speed lovers in town,” Nichols said. “It’s such a great hill for all disciplines.”

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