Sun — and cameras — shine on Snowmass during race
Snowmass Village got its moment in the sun as the USA Pro Challenge rode through for the first time on Aug. 19.
Not only did it come through, but the professional cyclists took three laps up Owl Creek Road and down Brush Creek Road before taking a sharp turn at Medicine Bow Road and continuing the loops back to Aspen. Now in its third year, this is the first time Snowmass Village has participated in the sporting event as a host city.
And participate it did: Teams were parking cars and trailers and working on bikes in the upper numbered lots as early as Aug. 14. Most of the athletes and crew members lodged at the Westin and Wildwood leading up to Stage 1 on Aug. 19. Stage 2 took off from Aspen on Aug. 20.
Tim Johnson, director of sales and marketing for the hotels, said he thought the athletes liked staying in Snowmass because there was enough space for them all to stay and prepare in one place.
“It feels like a campus, like an Olympic village,” Johnson said.
The hotels also fed the athletes three meals a day, preparing food in accordance with their very specific diets.
The race festivities kicked off with opening ceremonies in Base Village on Aug. 17, when each team was introduced and interviewed on a stage at the bottom of Fanny Hill. Other events included kids activities on the mall, a “best bike legs” competition at the Wildwood pool and a VIP reception in the former Sneaky’s Tavern space.
Spectators scattered all along the race route in Snowmass Village on Aug. 19, particularly at the intersection of Owl Creek and Brush Creek roads, where the first King of the Mountain point was. Matt Cook, a Boulder resident riding for the Jamis-Hagens Berman team, was one of three early breakaway riders and won the King of the Mountain points for his team. Cook wore the KOM jersey up Independence Pass at the start of Stage 2.
A large group assembled and then dissipated for the King of the Mountain crossing. Some chose that spot to catch the early action, others as a matter of convenience.
“We have a condo right up above, and it was just easy to climb down the stairs and watch from here,” said Evans Swann, of Houston and Snowmass Village, who with his family set up some chairs in the shade on the upper corner. “Easy place to get to, easy place to get away from.”
Carolyn Swann moved farther down Brush Creek Road for the first lap.
“They come around the corner and come down and then take off,” Carolyn Swann said. “You could see for a ways down.”
Another big group gathered in Town Park, where the Snowmass Lodging Association organized kids activities and a booth with water and snacks. Summer campers from the Snowmass Recreation Center and other children participated in bicycle and foot races around the softball field, run by Lucy Braillard and Mary Harris, from Timberline Condominiums.
Little Mammoth Steakhouse was offering two kinds of sandwiches from a booth on the field. The restaurant’s Marko Vidovic said he appreciated being invited to serve food at the event.
“We like to be here because of the happenings and the kids and everything,” Vidovic said. Vidovic said he hopes the race returns to Snowmass Village next year.
The Snowmass Wildcat Fire Protection District parked trucks and ambulances at points throughout the village, including the softball field, where they could access neighborhoods without disrupting the racecourse too much. The course passed directly in front of the fire station on Owl Creek Road.
“From a public-safety point of view, or management point of view, it went very smoothly,” said Art Smythe, Snowmass Village police chief.
A few people were unaware of the road closures along Highway 82, and those people either turned around or waited, depending on what time they showed up, Smythe said. The roads opened a half hour ahead of schedule.
Having the upper numbered lots closed to the public from Aug. 14 to 20 was a challenge, Smythe said, especially for the adjacent lodges. However, residents and visitors were able to fit without doing any street parking, and even the Thursday-night concert was well-attended, Smythe said.
Smythe said he wasn’t aware of any emergencies impacted by the road closures. No drivers arriving at the roadblocks were trying to get through to the hospital, he said. Village Shuttle buses were able to run up and down from the rodeo grounds between laps. Some drivers might have used Divide Road to enter or exit the village, which the department didn’t advertise too much because some vehicles can’t handle parts of it.
“I think everything from direct mailing to websites, all the different media we were involved with to get the word out had a positive impact,” Smythe said. “Most people just adjusted their workday.”
Some residents were unhappy with the road closures, but many Snowmass businesspeople were excited to have the USA Pro Challenge in town, particularly for the international television coverage the race provides. Snowmass Tourism painted the word “Snowmass” on the softball field so that the helicopter cameras would catch it in their aerial coverage.
“Kids are going back to school early in some markets,” Johnson said. “Events like these really help drive business. … I think this is great for Snowmass.”