Wilder Dwight Memorial speed races return to the Aspen Highlands course

The Wilder Dwight speed series returns to Highlands beginning Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of AVSC).

Sari Anderson promises there will be smiles, even though it may be difficult to see them behind the masks. The operations manager for the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club, Anderson is at the forefront of making sure this week’s Wilder Dwight Memorial Speed Series ski races are run safely.

“It’s really important for them to have this outlet. It’s a safe outlet. They are outside,” Anderson said. “The smiles you see on these kids, whether they are 5 or 25, is really amazing to see and it makes us feel like we are giving them something they can be excited about this season.”

The annual Wilder Dwight races get underway Wednesday at the Stapleton Training Center at Aspen Highlands. They include both men’s and women’s FIS and USSA speed races, with multiple super-Gs and downhills on tap for the coming week.

Named after Wilder Dwight, a promising young Aspen ski racer who died in a tragic skiing accident in 1986, the race series is one of the first and one of the few competitive events AVSC is able to host this season amid the coronavirus pandemic. The club has managed to host a few other events so far this winter, including Nordic races and moguls comps.

“It hasn’t been a huge challenge thanks to the cooperation of AVSC, Aspen Skiing Co. and Pitkin County Public Health. Everyone has worked together really well to be reasonable in what is allowed and what isn’t allowed,” Anderson said. “It makes you think about every possible situation and be sure you can do it in a way that everyone is safe.”

Racers will have to follow what has become the norm, from mask wearing when not actually racing to social distancing and filling out online health checks each morning. In adhering to county health guidelines, spectators will not be allowed to watch the races this week.

The race schedule includes FIS men’s races through Saturday and FIS women’s races from Sunday through Tuesday. Overlapping the FIS races beginning this Thursday will be the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Colorado Ski Cup races, which go through next Wednesday.

“It’s great for the athletes,” Anderson said. “We love to see these athletes out being able to do what they love to do and giving them a little bit of normalcy when everything else has been so difficult for them. However, we are not willing to put anyone’s health at risk. That’s probably been the hardest part, is communicating that point.”