Todd Hartley: A free ride to the lame side |

Todd Hartley: A free ride to the lame side

Well, it appears Freestyle Fridays are dead just one year after becoming Freeride Fridays, and if you didn’t see this particular death coming a mile away, you didn’t see Freeride Fridays.

I imagine I’m not supposed to say things like this, but I will. Freeride Fridays sucked ass. Freestyle Fridays were cool for years, but the format for the event that the Skico dreamed up for last year was horrible. It was boring and subject to the judges’ artistic inclinations, and those responsible for it should be sacked.

Freestyle Fridays were a mogul skiing competition, something I could recognize because it’s an Olympic event. The only difference is that with Freestyle Fridays there’s a huge jump at the bottom of the course.

Freeride Fridays may have kept the jump, but the rest of it, with its banked turns and rails and “terrain features,” was imbecilic. I know what moguls are; they’re the reason I don’t ski Ajax five days after a storm. What the hell was that course people were coming down at Highlands anyway? Is that what’s called “slopestyle”? If so, slopestyle should be outlawed.

Anyway, you get my point. The action of Freeride Fridays was lame, thus nobody cared to come out to Highlands on Friday to see it, thus the event’s sponsors and the public lost interest, thus the event died, thus a new, even lamer event will pop up out at Snowmass or Buttermilk, and if you go there you’ll be the oldest person at the event by a few years.

For my first seven or eight winters in town, I could always count on Aspen Highlands for a few things. I could always find a free parking spot. There’d be a good apres-ski scene at the bar, with a live band and lots of pitchers of beer. And on Fridays, there’d be Freestyle Fridays and their accompanying crowd at the Merry-Go-Round, and usually Dough-Boy would win.

Nowadays? It’s five bucks to park if you get there in time to get a spot, despite the fact that a parking structure is the predominant feature of Highlands Village, and there’s rarely a good scene at the bar in the afternoon. (In fairness, it’s not entirely the bar’s fault; those looming skyscrapers and all that unused commercial space in the village just don’t feel warm and inviting.)

You can now add to the aforementioned woes the fact that on Fridays you will no longer be hanging out in the sun with your friends at the Merry-Go-Round watching a mogul competition. The reason why you will not be doing this is because the Aspen Skiing Company sold out to snowboarders.

Don’t get me wrong, snowboarding and snowboarders are great, honestly. Opening Ajax to snowboarding was the right thing to do, and the Skico should be applauded for finally doing it years after everyone else. (You hang tough, though, Mad River, Taos and Alta. Somebody has to.)

However, reshaping Scarlett’s Run with snowcats and creating some lame slopestyle course so that snowboarders can compete on equal footing is wrong.

I suppose the Skico’s heart might have been in the right place when they did away with Freestyle Fridays, because most snowboarders really don’t stand a chance in a mogul competition. You know what, though? That’s too bad. Suck it up and learn how to ski.

It’s not like the event wasn’t open to snowboarders; it’s just that they can’t hack it. Neither can I. Does that mean that the course should be changed so as to give feeble old men with bad backs a fighting chance?

Call me a fossil, but I still think a mogul competition is just fine without banked turns and rail slides and all the other trappings of the X Games generation. It may not be politically correct, it may not be all-inclusive, but it’s a good spectator sport, and last time I checked it was still, as I mentioned before, an Olympic event.

So to the Skico I say this: God bless you for the good things you’ve done at Highlands, sincerely. The high-speed quads and Highland Bowl were an absolute godsend and far outweigh any of my gripes with the village.

But I do have to ask one tiny favor of you, Skico, one that might even work to your advantage. Don’t kill Freestyle Fridays, just restore them to the way they were. It’ll work, I swear. Lots of people liked them that way, even if a few snowboarders didn’t.

[Todd “Doughy Boy” Hartley writes this column on Fridays in The Aspen Times. E-mail at]

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