World-class sports festival to make its debut in Aspen | AspenTimes.com
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World-class sports festival to make its debut in Aspen

Aspen has become a town of festivals – Food and Wine Festival, Film Festival and, of course, the granddaddy of them all, the Music Festival.

They all help make Aspen special, but the town has always lacked a festival tied to its reputation as a sport mecca.

Not anymore.

A new festival this summer will bring some of the world’s best cyclists, climbers and even fly-fishermen to town Aug. 24-27.

People who pay the $575 fee will get to choose 17 courses from a menu of 55 offerings – everything from climbing classes with local veteran Neal Beidleman and Sherpa Jamling Tenzing Norgay to fly-fishing with A.K. Best, and from kayaking to paragliding.

Local Rishi Grewal will instruct three types of mountain biking courses while Pete Heck will share his secrets of success in high-altitude trail running.

Not everything tied to the Outdoor Festival is sports-oriented. The diverse offerings range from introduction to yoga to treading lightly in the fragile alpine environment.

“There’s a lot of stuff going on, but that’s what we wanted,” said Peter Johnson, founder of the event. “We wanted to cover all our bases.”

Many people might not be inclined to try yoga, but the festival will encourage people to try something new along with courses in the disciplines they love. With 17 courses per person, there will be room for experimentation.

“I’m hoping that after 3 1/2 days, you’re given another perspective on what the outdoors means to you,” said Johnson.

He stresses that the festival can accommodate people of all skill levels because of the intent to encourage experimentation. Participants don’t have to be fitness fanatics or cutthroat competitors.

It’s also being marketed as something for the whole family. For an extra fee, kids can be enrolled in their own version of the sports camp.

“The concept for this festival is to provide everyone, beginner to expert, young or young-at-heart, the opportunity to enjoy a wonderfully engaging outdoor experience in a non-competitive environment,” said the festival’s Web site.

Johnson believes the festival fits well into Walter Paepcke’s “Aspen Idea.” Paepcke, regarded as the father of modern Aspen, saw Aspen as a place to nurture the mind, body and spirit through cultural events, sports and the arts.

Johnson resides in Boulder but has been a frequent Aspen visitor. During a career in mogul skiing, which included a world championship, he competed at Aspen Highlands. He entered the sports marketing field after his skiing career ended.

After several years in the business, he realized nothing was being done like the outdoor festival he has envisioned.

“It is the event,” said Johnson. “I didn’t set out to create a festival just to create a festival.”

Johnson initially envisioned it at Crested Butte, then decided Aspen was ideal because of the arts and cultural offerings that go along with the great outdoor setting.

The festival will be limited to 325 participants in the first year. Locals’ passes will be sold for individual or small packages. Their availability will be determined by the sales of full packages and the course selections of participants.

There is also a chance for locals to get involved by volunteering. People will be needed for a variety of tasks that are yet to be determined, according to Johnson.

His hope is to build an event that attracts both locals and tourists, and to make the festival an annual highlight of Aspen’s summer.

“I think we’ll get to the point where it’s really an international sports festival,” said Johnson.

Sponsors include Mountain Hardware, Eagle Creek Travel Gear, National Geographic Outdoors and mountainzone.com, which will do live Internet coverage of the festival.

For more details or for registration information, visit the International Outdoor Festival’s Web site at: http://www.outdoorfest.com. The site includes a list of instructors involved and their athletic accomplishments.


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