| AspenTimes.com

Man dies in snowmobile crash on backside of Aspen Mountain

A man died after crashing his snowmobile in the Midnight Mine Road area on the backside of Aspen Mountain on Saturday evening, law enforcement officials released Sunday morning.

According to a Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office press release, dispatchers received a 911 call from the Midnight Mine Road area at 7:21 p.m. Saturday reporting a snowmobile crash with serious injuries.

Sheriff’s Office personnel alerted Mountain Rescue Aspen, which responded with multiple snowmobiles to the incident on Midnight Mine Road, about three miles up from Castle Creek Road, the press release says. Two Aspen Mountain Ski Patrol members also responded on snowmobiles from the Sundeck area.

Rescue officials arrived on scene within 30 minutes of the 911 call and determined the adult man involved in the snowmobile crash was dead, the press release states.

According to Bruce Benjamin, an investigator with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, the man reportedly went off of the road and crashed. Benjamin said Sunday morning that the man’s identity, including his age and where he is from, is being withheld until his family is notified.

Another snowmobiler was traveling with the man, the press release says, and was interviewed by law enforcement officials as part of their fatal crash investigation. The Pitkin County Coroner’s Office is also conducting an investigation into the cause and manner of the man’s death.

Benjamin said more information on the fatal crash may be released to the public as early as Monday.

The fatal snowmobile crash was in the area on the backside of Aspen Mountain near where Jerome “Jerry” Hatem, a longtime member and organizer of the Gentleman of Aspen Rugby Club, was found dead underneath a snowmobile after an apparent accident at the top of Little Annie Road in June 2019.

mvincent@aspentimes.com

Aspen nonprofit ACES proposes camping, education project on 10 acres near Ashcroft

An Aspen conservation nonprofit wants permission from Pitkin County to establish a low-impact nature education and camping area near Ashcroft on a plot of land originally approved for a single-family home.

Just don’t call it a campground.

“It is not a campground,” Chris Lane, CEO of Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, said late last week. “That’s the concern we have with the public. It’s less a campground than a property we walk on.”

The project would be built on a 10.5-acre parcel of land located near the intersection of Castle Creek Road and Express Creek Road, about 400 yards from another ACES facility in the area called Catto Center at Toklat, according to Lane and a project overview submitted to Pitkin County. The site also is near the intersection of Castle Creek and Express Creek Road, according to the documents.

The property, owned by Boulder environmentalist Tom Barron, was previously approved for a single-family home and caretaker’s unit, according to the land-use application and a conservation easement filed in Pitkin County. The easement, signed by Barron in December and held by the Aspen Valley Land Trust, calls for the land to remain pristine in nature in perpetuity, and agrees to the ACES project.

“Landowner intends to convey the property to the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, who will use the property for educational and conservation programs,” the easement states.

According to ACES’ land-use application, the property will be used for school-based environmental classes, children’s and adult naturalist field schools, hikes or programs for groups holding retreats at the Catto Center at Toklat, and snowshoe tours.

The U.S. Forest Service granted a private road easement and driveway across its land to the property in 2001, and with the permission of Pitkin County, a driveway was constructed in 2009, according to the application.

ACES wants permission to build a small fire pit at a “hub” area at the end of the driveway, install a subgrade, 50- to 100-gallon water tank, a small lockable gear box, a bear-resistant food locker, a temporary awning system or shelter, and seven removable tent platforms in an aspen grove where the home was set to be built, the application states.

The setup also would include a portable toilet similar to “groovers” used on boating trips, and vehicle trips to the property would be limited, Lane said.

The property would be closed unless an ACES program is happening and all guests would have to be accompanied by an ACES staff member, according to the application. Dogs would not be allowed.

All except the water tank would be removed at the end of the summer season, Lane said.

“There would be virtually no impact on the land,” he said. “The donor does not want a lot of people on the land. It’s all for education.”

Group sizes would be “typically fewer than 20 and no more than 25,” according to the application. Groups would visit every other week for a couple of nights between June and August, said Jim Kravitz, naturalist programs director at ACES.

Lane and Kravitz said they want to avoid using the word “campground” to describe the project because the word connotes infrastructure like pavement, bathrooms, permanent fire rings and tent platforms and constant activity.

“This is an incredible place for education,” Kravitz said, noting the property features a spring, a beaver lodge and elk activity. “Our bread and butter is teaching kids around this wonderful place. It’s quite an opportunity to be able to consider this (project).”

Barron sold two mining claims on the back of Aspen Mountain last month to the Pitkin County Open Space Program for $1.25 million. That purchase, which extinguished development for an 8,000-square-foot house on the site, will allow a more accessible trail to the nearby 54-acre Stirling Cooper Open Space.

Pitkin County commissioners were set to address the ACES development application Wednesday, though the board continued the application until April.

jauslander@aspentimes.com

Kelly Sildaru wins first women’s ski superpipe gold over Rachael Karker, Cassie Sharpe

Cassie Sharpe did everything in her power to win Saturday’s superpipe contest. She had no regrets. Her only question is, what else could she have done? No one really has an answer with the new scoring format taking over X Games Aspen this year.

“That’s the thing. The new format is fun. It pushes everyone. You get creativity, you get variation, you get all these things that are amazing with it,” the Canadian star said. “But they don’t have a solid way of saying you need to do this to win. It’s kind of like you’re blind. You just go in blind and you make it up as you go. I think this format is fun. I think we need to have a little bit more structure to it.”

Sharpe, the 27-year-old who won X Games Aspen gold in the superpipe contest last year, settled for bronze Saturday in her return from a three-month hiatus as she recovered from a concussion. The reigning Olympic gold medalist in the halfpipe put down two strong runs to close the 30-minute jam session but still fell short of silver medalist Rachael Karker and gold medalist Kelly Sildaru.

The biggest change to this year’s contest was in the scoring, which is based around an “overall impression” format instead of judging athletes on their best single run. Skiers move up and down the standings during the contest, but there are not any actual scores to compare or contrast runs with.

“You are totally guessing,” Sharpe said. “You just cruise and try to mix it up a little bit, give them some variation, hit your grabs, get the amplitude and just do everything in your power to do well.”

Karker, the 22-year-old Canadian who won bronze as an X Games rookie a year ago, found joy in the relative free-flowing nature of the competition. She’s come onto the scene quickly following a surprise win at Dew Tour last winter in Breckenridge.

“As always, everyone is going in hoping for gold, but I’m so happy I was able to land on the podium,” Karker said. “I was pretty nervous trying to put together different runs. We don’t normally do that, but it ended up being super fun. I’m pretty happy about it.”

Sildaru, the 17-year-old from Estonia who is taking over women’s freeskiing, won X Games gold in only her second superpipe contest at Buttermilk. She won silver a year ago in her debut, although she now has a total of four X Games gold medals when combined with her three slopestyle golds going back to her first in 2016.

She was fourth in big air Friday and will look to defend her slopestyle gold Sunday. She won three X Games medals in the three events in roughly 24 hours last winter.

“I didn’t expect that today,” Sildaru said. “It’s also pretty tough doing all three disciplines. I just tried to enjoy tonight and that happened. So I’m really stoked.”

China’s Kexin Zhang was fourth Saturday, followed by Britain’s Zoe Atkin, California’s Brita Sigourney, Russia’s Valeriya Demidova and China’s Fenghui Li.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Knuckle huck champ and X Games rookie Colby Stevenson wins ski slopestyle gold

Colby Stevenson was mortal when he woke up this morning. He and fellow X Games Aspen competitor Evan McEachran opted for public transportation after Stevenson gave his Buttermilk parking pass to his mother, but after Saturday’s men’s ski slopestyle competition, maybe ESPN will give him a couple more passes next year.

That’s because the 22-year-old from Park City, Utah, is officially a superstar.

“It’s funny, Evan and I, we started the day out at the economy lot in Snowmass and rode the bus in, just him and I. We are like, ‘We must be the only athletes parking out here,’” Stevenson said. “So for us to go back and forth the whole competition — that was pretty cool. We are really good buddies. We’ve been hanging out all week. It’s unreal. We are both on top of the podium.”

It was Stevenson, an X Games rookie, who narrowly bested McEachran, a 22-year-old X Games veteran from Canada, in Saturday’s competition. Switzerland’s Fabian Boesch, a two-time big air medalist, won bronze for his first slopestyle medal at X Games. The new competition format was a 45-minute jam session where athletes were ranked on overall impression.

Stevenson announced himself to the world on Thursday when he won the inaugural ski knuckle huck contest, edging fan favorite Henrik Harlaut, who won big air gold on Friday but did not qualify for Saturday’s slopestyle final.

“It’s insane. Colby may be a rookie to X Games this year, but to all of us skiers he’s been the greatest skier in the world for the past couple of years,” McEachran said. “He’s the most talented, hard-working guy. Nobody deserves it more than him. He’s been through a lot and to see him put it down today, it’s just amazing.”

Stevenson said he wasn’t nervous coming in. Fellow Park City skier Alex Hall, who won his first slopestyle gold last year, told him X Games wasn’t quite as intense as it was shown to be on television. Plus, winning knuckle huck on Thursday took some of that edge off, as well.

“I really wanted to win knuckle huck, so to do that boosted my confidence for sure. It got me really excited for slopestyle,” Stevenson said. “I was feeling less pressure just because I had nothing to lose. I’m here to prove myself and prove why I should have been invited years ago. I just was excited. I wanted to show people what I could do.”

It also was the first X Games medal for McEachran, who was eighth in Friday’s big air final. His best previous slopestyle finish had been eighth in 2017 in both Aspen and Norway. He was 11th in 2019.

Finishing fourth in slopestyle Saturday was Switzerland’s Andre Ragettli and fifth Canada’s Alex Beaulieu-Marchand. Hall was sixth in defense of his 2019 gold, while Indiana’s Nick Goepper was seventh and Norway’s Ferdinand Dahl was eighth.

“I’ve been to Aspen probably five times now, and it’s gotten away from me every time,” McEachran said of his first X Games medal. “So to put it down in the new format today and ski consistent like I did, I’m blown away. I blew my mind today. I’m very happy to see Colby Stevenson, one of my best friends, end up on top. I could not be happier.”

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Spaniard Queralt Castellet wins first X Games gold, celebrates grandmother Yaya’s 85th birthday

Queralt Castellet was the last snowboarder to drop in on the final run of the jam-session style superpipe competition Saturday evening.

After her final go, which featured a frontside 900 and a backside 540, the Spaniard and returning silver medalist waited for the announcement. When her name came over the loudspeakers, she threw her head back and thrusted her hands into the air in celebration.

She said her first-ever X Games gold medal was all the sweeter because she earned it on her grandmother’s 85th birthday.

“For me, I was coming here to do the best possible performance for her and I did,” said the 30-year-old Castellet. “Happy birthday, Yaya. I love you and I’m so happy.”

On her third run, third-place finisher Haruna Matsumoto landed the first frontside 1080 of the competition. Kurumi Imai followed with a frontside 1080 followed by a frontside 900 to shoot her to the top of the standings for the time being. Castellet stunned the crowd with a backside 900 followed by a frontside 900.

“I always want to clean up the run with a front-nine. When I had the opportunity, I decided to do the back nine in front,” Catellet said. “It’s very hard to land, but I decided to give it a go. It worked and I’m so stoked.”

After three rounds she sat in second place behind Japan’s Imai, but she stumbled on her final run. Her small mistake could have been the difference between silver and gold.

Going into the event, all eyes were on California native Maddie Mastro, who had been landing the double crippler in practice. The American nearly landed the trick on her second run, but that was as close as she came all night. On her three other attempts, Mastro hit the snow. She ended the event in eighth place, while 14-year-old Canadian Brooke D’Hondt finished sixth.

The field was slightly different than expected as Steamboat rider Arielle Gold dropped out of the event earlier in the day. Even with Gold gone and the absence of the reigning champion Chloe Kim, Castellet still knew she needed to give it her all to secure the victory.

“The level tonight was insane,” she said. “Now there is not just one person doing perfect 10s, there’s a lot of riders doing incredible tricks. … You can’t think you’re gonna do well because someone’s not here.”

Henry, Matechuk earn third consecutive X Games golds in snowbike disciplines

Doug Henry is basically the Lebron James of snow biking. He’s been around a long time, and doesn’t seem to know how to lose.

The Connecticut native, who just turned 50, won his third consecutive gold medal at the X Games as he crossed the line Saturday with a massive lead in the para snowbike cross finals.

With decades in the sport and a heavy haul of hardware, Henry has considered retiring a few times. Still, he can’t seem to stay away from the sport. Right now, his goal is to keep competing until he’s 55.

“It’s been a thought probably five times,” said Henry, who is the oldest athlete in this year’s X Games. “I’ve tried, but as long as I’m having fun and still competitive, I’m gonna do it.”

Henry won gold in the para snow bikecross in 2019, and finished first in the adaptive version of the event the year before.

Henry’s only competition was eliminated early as Will Posey took a jump too aggressively and wiped out just as he started lap two. From there, Henry cruised to a 15-second margin of victory. Henry nearly committed a crucial mistake when he didn’t take enough horsepower into a jump, but managed to keep his track on the ground and his bike moving forward.

“The first lap or two, you’re just trying to keep it up and start improving, getting a little bit faster here and there,” he said. “I just looked behind me, I had a little bit of a gap.”

Brandon Dudley finished second, while Leighton Lillie picked up a bronze medal.

The snow bike veteran Henry has been attending X Games since 1999, but says the thrill of attending and performing well hasn’t faded.

“You have no idea how early this is in my head and in my mind. In November, I’m training pretty hard,” Henry said. “It’s pretty much a year-round thing. X Games is top of my list of events I want to win.”

Cody Matechuk ran away with his third straight gold medal in snowbike cross, finishing a whopping 16 seconds ahead of Yanick Boucher.

The whole race, one of his crew members stood near the lap line, gesturing with his arms how great a lead he had. With each lap, his hands got farther and farther apart, to the point he could no longer accurately express how large Matechuk’s advantage was.

“I really don’t like racing and looking backwards, so I rely on my mechanic to give me gap,” Matechuk said. “I could see the gap growing. I just felt like I was in a good rhythm. I was hitting all my marks, I wasn’t pushing.”

He was so far removed from the rest of the race, as the cameras swarmed him at the finish Matechuk asked his crew, “Who got second and third?”

Boucher took second, and Jesse Kirchmeyer picked up bronze. Kirchmeyer finished second last year. Boucher made it to the finals in 2019, but didn’t finish the race.

Matechuk couldn’t avoid drama in his semifinal. At the start of the first semifinal, Hoyer and Josh Hill jumped the gun, having to be moved behind the line and work their way back to the front throughout the race.

That put Matechuk at an advantage, which he held for most of the race, but with a few laps to go, he bailed off his bike when it malfunctioned. He got back on and crossed the line in second to make the finals.

“Sometimes that stuff just finds you, but it wouldn’t be a good story without a little bit of adversity,” Matechuk said. “We broke a ski on that first race, still ended up getting second place. We went back and changed it for the main. It’s X Games. You got to leave it all on the table.”

Blunck, Irving look to challenge Ferreira, Wise in men’s ski superpipe final

Birk Irving outdueled Aaron Blunck to win Friday’s qualifier. Now both will have to outduel Alex Ferreira, David Wise and Nico Porteous in Sunday’s men’s ski superpipe final to wrap up X Games Aspen.

“It’s definitely a little stressful having to do a qualifier, but honestly, once you get through that qualifier the stress is done, you are in finals,” Blunck said Friday. “The stress is off now I’ve made it. Now it’s time to go enjoy the weekend and have some fun.”

Blunck, 23 of Crested Butte, only has one X Games medal in his career that goes back to 2013 when he took seventh in the Buttermilk superpipe. Although, his lone medal was gold in 2017, arguably the biggest win of his career. He’s also the two-time reigning world champion.

Along with the rest of the eight-man field, Blunck will have to deal with the new format that is being used across most ski and snowboard events at X Games this year. Sunday’s 7 p.m. final will be a 30-minute jam session judged on overall impression opposed to a single run.

“The jam format is totally my kind of thing. I’m really into it. I think it makes you need to be versatile and show you can drop in on one wall and go switch and go forward off the other and change it up,” Blunck said. “We get so caught up with that one-run format, so everyone works for that one run. It’s really cool to be able to go into it all and do everything and change who you are as a skier and show who you are at the same time.”

Winter Park’s Irving, 20, has a couple of X Games appearances under his belt, finishing a career-best fourth in 2017. He is in the midst, however, of one of his best seasons, winning the season-opening World Cup in New Zealand back in September. He was fourth at the Copper Grand Prix and fourth again at a World Cup in China last month.

Irving also won the Mammoth Grand Prix to close the 2018-19 competition season.

He’s coming in with an open mind in regards to this year’s X Games format.

“It’s new and I really like it. It just promotes variety and shows how good everyone is good at skiing,” Irving said Friday. “Rather than trying to focus on doing one run the whole time, everyone is out there trying to put different runs down and showcasing the tricks they have. I think it’s really cool and I like it a lot.”

Irving and Blunck have a lot to overcome to get on the podium Sunday. New Zealand’s Porteous, only 18, is last year’s X Games bronze medalist and also has a bronze from the 2018 Winter Olympics. Nevada’s Wise, 29, has the best resume of everyone, one that includes four X Games gold medals and two Olympics golds.

Then, of course, there is Aspen’s Ferreira, the reigning X Games Aspen gold medalist and reigning Olympic silver medalist.

“Training has been going great,” Ferreira said Thursday. “We had an awesome training Monday and Tuesday night and I feel like I’m skiing well and I’m happy. When you are skiing well and you are happy, then usually good results come.”

Also competing in Sunday’s ski superpipe final are Canadians Noah Bowman, who won silver back in 2012, and Brendan MacKay, as well as Boulder’s Lyman Currier, a 2014 Olympian. Aspen’s Cassidy Jarrell, 20, made his X Games debut Friday in the elimination, finishing sixth with only the top five advancing to finals.

Led by Ferreira, Wise and Blunck, all three men with X Games gold medals, Sunday’s show is set to be wild.

“It definitely helped me get into it a little bit more in the competition mindset and be able to go into finals just knowing what I need to do and what I can do better, so I’m really stoked about it,” Blunck said of the qualifier. “The pipe is really good this year. It’s actually probably the best it’s been in the last couple of years. It’s been really fun. The vibes are really high. Everyone’s been killing it, so it’s been a good time overall.”

acolbert@aspentimes.com

X Games Day 3 notebook: Father of knuckle huck set to soar at X Games

Knuck king Kleveland ready for huck

It’s time for the man who, in many ways, inspired the knuckle huck competition to actually compete in it.

Last January, X Games Aspen debuted a new competition: snowboard knuckle huck. X Games brought the fun-loving contest into its fold after Norweigan star Marcus Kleveland’s videos of himself hucking tricks off knuckles went viral.

The knuckle huck competition has riders drop into the big air ramp before snowboarding around the actual big air jump. They do this to launch off of the roll-over, or “knuckle,” of the big air course before landing in the normal big air landing zone.

But a broken knee cap suffered at Dew Tour in December 2018 forced him out of last January’s X Games, so Kleveland didn’t get a chance to take on the contest he helped inspire. He wrote on his Instagram account Thursday, though, that he’ll compete in this year’s knuckle huck, scheduled for Sunday at 6:30 p.m.

“Been having a lot of fun riding the slopestyle practice,” Kleveland said. “But I’ve decided to skip out due to not having enough time on big jumps. Just wanna feel 100% when the time is right. Still gonna do the Knuckle Huck though.”

In essence, what the knuckle huck competition provides is an outlet for snowboarders to showcase atypical creativity, style and skill off the knuckle. That’s because launching off the knuckle provides for different moves than the normal big air jump. In essence, knuckle huck moves are not as massive or powerful as the big air moves, which require snowboarders to launch high into the night sky. Rather, tricks off the knuckle are lower in amplitude yet, in a lot of ways, more aesthetically-pleasing to both the casual viewer and an avid snowboarder, alike. And in a sign that the competition has been a success, this year X Games added a ski knuckle huck competition, which rookie Colby Stevenson of Utah won Thursday.

– Antonio Olivero, Summit Daily

NEW, IMPROVED?

Rounding out this year’s run at new events to keep things fresh is the men’s snowboard rail jam Sunday at the top of the slopestyle course. A field of eight will be going off the three features at the top of the course in a 20-minute session.

Other new events seemed to gain crowd support, including Friday night’s superpipe session event where Steamboat Springs rider Taylor Gold finally got to the top of the X Games podium. The ski knuckle huck, which came after the snowboard knuckle debut in 2019, got the Thursday crowd riled up with 20-year-old X Games rookie Colby Stevenson beating out fan favorite Henrik Harlaut.

“For the skiers it’s a niche little category that’s cool,” Aspen’s Torin Yater-Wallace said of the knuckle huck.

Anyone miss the Harley-Davidson snow hill climb up the superpipe this year?

— David Krause, The Aspen Times

Parrot’s 1800 powers him to X Games snowboard big air gold

Canadian star Max Parrot’s big air win in August at X Games Norway was special because it was an X Games gold medal in his first competition back mere months after recovering from a Hodkins Lymphoma diagnosis.

But Saturday night’s win at X Games Aspen’s snowboard big air competition may have been more special because of the stage Buttermilk Ski Area is.

“Aspen is the biggest one,” Parrot said. “It’s here I got my first invite when I was a kid.”

A year after doctors forced him out of last winter’s X Games Aspen to begin chemotherapy treatment, Parrot won Saturday on the strength of a soaring switch frontside triple cork 1800. Parrot, 25, is the only athlete in the world who can land the trick, which requires him to ride backward into the launch before rotating his body to his board’s front side to invert on his vertical axis three times while completing five rotations. Parrot said it took six-day a week training sessions to build his strength and skill enough to land the move, which kept him ahead of a versatile, five-for-five performance from fellow Canadian and silver medalist Mark McMorris. Sven Thorgren of Sweden took the bronze medal.

Parrot also landed a backside triple cork 1620, a frontside triple cork 1620 he landed switch with an inventive melon grab, a cab triple cork 1620 and a triple cork 1440. McMorris rode to silver in the new X Games 25-minute jam format where riders aren’t awarded exact scores. Rather, they are re-ranked on a leaderboard after each jump. The top of the leaderboard went back and forth between McMorris and Parrot before Parrot’s 1800 kept him on top near the end. That said, with the silver medal McMorris tied legend Shaun White’s 18 X Games medals for the most X Games medals by a skier or snowboarder in history. McMorris rode to second with a pair of 1620s and three types of 1440s, including a final one as the final jump of the night that featured two grabs: mute and tail.

As for when he’ll go for medal No. 19, he said he may compete in Sunday’s rail jam, though he may leave the stage for his older brother Craig. If not Sunday, he said he plans to compete at X Games China in Chongli later this year.

“That’s a performance I was really proud of,” McMorris said.

Tweet All About It: Good company and strong drinks

Each week, we pick out our favorite and not-so-favorite tweets (at least those that are printable) about Aspen and display them on Sunday’s page A2.

Can we talk about the camera person following these bad ass women down the mountain?? #XGames #Aspen — @blacklabby317

“Sounds white enough for Aspen. Do better #Colorado #Aspen” — @Witch_of_SoCo

“X games szn #Aspen” — @sirkevindoherty

“Aspen is a collective noun for a group of tormented wealthy. #sadplace #sadenergy #aspen” — @Matron6

“Can’t help but watch ⁦@XGames in #Aspen for a bit. It’s crazy the tricks these young guys/girls can do!! They take the sport to new levels every year!! Who has more names for their moves, @XGames skiers or @WWE wrestlers?” — @DaveWinfieldHOF

“Headed to #Aspen to work a pop up during the #XGames. As usual i’ll keep you updated if I see any other black ppl” — @DrRealDrPhDHood

“ASPEN, CO: if I could only photograph one thing the rest of my life, hands down it’s unified sports. one of the coolest, humbling things I get to be a small part of || @XGames x @SpecialOlympics || #xgames #specialolympics #aspen “ — @BENSOLOMONPHOTO

“Been in the shuttle to #Aspen for 7 hrs with this guy from Australia and two chicks from boulder!! And it’s been enjoyable lol!! The handle of #Fireball helps lol !! We coming @XGames” — @Iam_VanWildr

“Anyone else find the lack of scores raise a transparency eyebrow in new for snowboard formats? How can riders adjust runs to improve? #xgames @XGames #Aspen” — @LALegault

The Aspen Times can be found on Twitter, as well. Follow @TheAspenTimes to get daily updates on what’s happening in the Roaring Fork Valley.