Watch the big air, or catch some yourself
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Suddenly, it’s a big-air Wintersköl weekend in Aspen/Snowmass.
The first airing is this afternoon from 2:30-3:30 at Aspen Highlands on the Lower Smuggler run, which is just above the deck outside of Iguana’s and Durrance Sports.
Athletes from the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club’s freestyle and snowboard team will be hucking themselves off a 20-foot tabletop jump in an effort to delight onlookers.
The jump is just a snowball’s throw from the deck and looks like it could easily propel the young skiers and riders right into Durrance Sports itself.
But the jump has been worked up under the guidance of AVSC freestyle coach Eric “Doughboy” Knight, who has spent more time in the air at Aspen Highlands than anyone since Stein Eriksen, who used to do a flip on skis every Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Highlands.
Knight has been a regular winner of the Friday Freestyle events at Highlands through the years and is now bringing up a new generation of flyers.
The second big-air contest will be held on Fanny Hill at the Snowmass Ski Area on Sunday from 2-4 p.m.
This event is designed to take the place of the traditional ski splash in Snowmass Village, where contestants would sail off a jump into a swimming pool, often wearing only ski boots and socks.
The Snowmass big-air event is open to the public. Anybody who feels they can handle the big 30-foot-gap jump is welcome to give it a try.
“Sign the waiver, pay the 10 bucks, watch the guys warming up, and if you still want to go, then go for it,” said Brett Huske, manager of the Snowmass Village Resort Association, which is coordinating the event with the Aspen Skiing Co.
Up to 50 people will be allowed to register, and there will be a qualifying jump to separate the poseurs from the true fiends. Then, 20 competitors will air it out for cash prizes, with $500 going to the winner.
Snowmass-native Steele Spence, who is a rising star on the slopestyle skiing circuit, is helping shape the Fanny Hill jump and is likely to compete, said Snowmass General Manager Doug Mackenzie.
This is the first time that Snowmass has had a big-air contest, although the ski area once hosted a few jumping events on the Zugspitze trail in the 1970s.
“It should be spectacular,” Mackenzie said. “And it will take a higher skill level than the pool splash. We have jumps in our terrain parks, and it will be similar to those, only it will be a showcase.”
The jump is across the slope from the Silvertree Hotel about 100 yards up from the end of the Snowmass mall. Spectators can line the course to watch the action on skis or on foot. Competitors may or may not continue the tradition of partial or total nudity, but it’s likely that photographers will be standing by to find out.
If the event goes well, the Snowmass big air may even become a regular Thursday-afternoon spectacle in February.
[Brent Gardner-Smith’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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