Sean Beckwith: Mountain Madness: A competition to be Aspen’s A-list activity
Welcome to Mountain Madness, a shameless rip-off of everybody’s favorite college basketball tournament that spawns all kinds of brackets designed to stir up real arguments over made-up matchups. As you can see in the bracket above, I went ahead and ran the simulation. According to my calculations and little to no input from Aspen residents, this is how the madness would play out.
If you were looking for a drawn-out process in which votes are cast to legitimize a winner and loser, I apologize. I have neither the time nor desire to see biking take out skiing in the semis, advance hiking in any way or conduct 15 separate polls.
So, let’s take a look at how the matchups played out.
1. Skiing/snowboarding vs. 8. Snowshoeing: This is self-explanatory. It’s like Zion Williamson dunking on kids from North Dakota State. Additionally, I just combined skiing and snowboarding because I didn’t want them to end up in the finals and have that nauseating LeBron versus Jordan-esque debate again. Both are great and you’re not going to convince either side that their stance is wrong.
4. Cross-country skiing vs. 5. Climbing: Climbing is just too niche of a sport to give cross-country skiing, the sport of nearly and fully retired downhill skiers, a real push. When you factor in variations of the two — skijoring/biathlon and ice climbing/free soloing — I think adding a dog or target practice is preferred to scaling an icicle or certain death. (No, I haven’t seen “Free Solo” but I have seen the biathlon scene from “For Your Eyes Only” like two dozen times.)
2. Biking vs. 7. Fat biking: I’m including all forms of summer biking — cycling, downhill, mountain biking, etc. — to keep the entries to 16. Fat biking made the cut because it’s the winter version of biking, which is like jogging in freezing temps, aka a lot, too much. Just wait for the summer or move to Moab.
3. Rafting vs. 6. Backpacking: Camping encroaches on eating/drinking/dining and thus is disqualified. Backpacking on the other hand involves strapping 75 liters worth of gear to your back and packing in and packing out feces. To be fair, if you do a multi-day float trip you’re handling s—, too. However, a day on the duckie/kayak/raft is better than one that involves chafing. Rafting gets the win.
1. Hiking vs. 8. Disc golf: The first and biggest upset of the tourney has the University of Virginia of activities losing to its University of Maryland, Baltimore County counterpart. Slowly plodding along a trail is about as fun as watching a team employ a suffocating defense and walk the ball up on offense. Disc golf is essentially hiking with an injection of competition — and beer.
4. Uphilling vs. 5. Standup Paddleboarding: In a battle of emerging hipster favorites, we have activities that add an extra degree of difficulty. Fitness freaks are forgoing chairlifts to uphill ski, or skin, to the top of a mountain to earn their turns. SUP-ing appears fun on the surface, but requires balance, croakies and pitstops for beverage breaks. But give me the option that doesn’t involve a self-propelled trip up Buttermilk.
2. Fishing vs. 7. Hunting: Reaping the rewards of hunting elk or deer comes with a few catches: attaining a permit, actually finding/killing said animal, breaking it down and hauling it to you car or camp. If you’re so lucky it’s great, but I’ve seen a buddy snag a fish of his first cast. After adding gold medal rivers, high-alpine lakes and year-round options, fishing cruises through.
3. Golfing vs. 6. Volleyball: Judging by the amount of people at the Koch Park sand volleyball courts during summer months and the Motherlode Tournament, you’d think Aspen might ponder adding courts rather than the opposite. If the city ever added a bar and grill next to the nets, it’d have the most popular co-ed rec league in the state. Rant over, just like the first round. (Golf advances.)
1. Skiing vs. 4. XC skiing: A really easy draw for the overall No. 1 seed. Skiing punks its slower, less fun little brother on the way to the Final Four.
2. Biking vs. 3. Rafting: In an upset sure to give an already sensitive fan base even more of an inferiority complex, rafting comes in hot after a strong runoff from a heavy snow season. Any other year and any other columnist and a biking probably wins. What a showing from the WSC (Watersport Conference).
8. Disc golf vs. 5. SUP-ing: The Cinderella comes up just short after taking an early lead but goes down after vegetation crops up and fire ban foul trouble. SUP-ing, its ergonomic paddleboards and bandwagon of colorful fans make the Final Four. W-S-C! W-S-C!
2. Fishing vs. 3. Golfing: Here we have two storied teams with overlapping fan bases and a Final Four spot on the line. The game of the tournament features three wardrobe changes, four applications of sunscreen, double-digit trout, 27 holes and countless beers. In the battle for the love of middle-aged white men, golf prevails.
1. Skiing vs. 3. Rafting: After a knockdown game with biking, rafting, trying to play up to its potential, can’t stay with an experienced juggernaut charging downhill toward another title. Skiing, the preseason, pre-tournament and perennial favorite, moves one step closer to hoisting the trophy.
5. SUP-ing vs. 3. Golfing: SUP-ing, the benefactor of a ton of luck, paddles into the Final Four content with its run, and it shows. Golfing gets off to an early start with a strong front 9 and can afford a couple of snowmen on the back after SUP-pers take a spill in the rapids and are left wondering why they ever left the calm waters of Northstar.
Skiing vs. Golfing: The entire game is a coronation. With this season’s incredible snowfall, memories of last year’s collapse fade like golf’s tee shots into the junk. In a rout, skiing leaves golfers hacking away in the sand and looking for lost approach shots. Skiing is your 2018-19 champion.
Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Reach him at email@example.com.