World’s most grueling race |

World’s most grueling race

Aspen Times Staff Report

The 24 Hours of Aspen, celebrated as the world’s most grueling endurance ski race and the best spectator event of the year for insomniacs, returns to the slopes of Aspen Mountain Sunday at noon.

For the first time, spectators can catch a glimpse of the nighttime action from the top of the race course as well as the bottom.

The gondola will be open to the public Sunday from 4 p.m. to midnight. The last ride up is at 11 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children, age 12 and younger (no ski or employee passes will be honored). Complimentary hot drinks and Gwyn’s strudel will be served up top.

Here’s a tip: Bundle up.

Bleachers at the base of the gondola are a good place to cheer on the two-person teams as they finish thigh-burning, top-to-bottom runs for 24 exhausting hours. A giant video screen at the base will display the entire 3,267-vertical-foot descent.

Opening ceremonies begin at 11 a.m. Sunday. The Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club will bring a parade of flags down Little Nell. Pre-race ceremonies at the top of Ajax will start Sunday at 11:25 a.m.; spectators should grab a bucket up by 11 a.m.

If you’re skiing Sunday afternoon, hang out at the bottom of the Ajax Express lift for a view of the racers.

While teams hurtle down the mountain through the night, less hardy souls can head for the Double Diamond, where a Rock the Racers Party will feature live music and drink specials. Admission is $5; the fun runs from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Then head back over to the gondola to watch the racers or head for bed. Be sure you’re up by 12:15 p.m. Monday though. That’s when the awards ceremony gets under way at the base of Ajax after the racing concludes. After the trophy is hoisted, join the teams at the Aspen Club Lodge for a post-race party at 2 p.m.

To get into the 24 Hours spirit, stop by Aspen Mountain on Saturday to watch Ski Club members skiing for pledges in the 2.4 Hours of Aspen on Little Nell, starting at 10 a.m. Applaud the 2.4 Hours winners in the Little Nell courtyard at 1 p.m. and meet the 24 Hours of Aspen competitors. Racers will be available to sign autographs.

A few tickets remain for the Audi 24 Hours of Aspen gala dinner and auction at the St. Regis Saturday evening; call 544-7055.

Remember, Ajax will be off-limits for uphill snowshoeing and hiking today through Monday. And due to course preparation, there will be no First Tracks program on Ajax this weekend.

Channel 16 will broadcast live from Aspen Mountain throughout the 24 Hours race and video clips, hourly updates and breaking images will be posted throughout the event on

If you somehow manage to miss the whole thing, ESPN will air television coverage of the event on Jan 1, from 1 to 3 p.m.

This year’s 24 Hours will benefit the ski club and Challenge Aspen. Proceeds from the nighttime gondola rides and Double Diamond cover charge will benefit the charities, as will other fund-raisers associated with the annual race event.

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