Around 200 skiers grab gear Wednesday during AVSC’s modified ’equipment night’
Most years, equipment night for new Aspen Supports Kids athletes is quite the ordeal. But, like everything in this new COVID-19 world, the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club program had to make a few adjustments this time around and took its annual event to Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel on Wednesday.
“It’s controlled and within restrictions and limitations, so it’s all very smooth,” ASK program director Meredith Elwell said during a lull on Wednesday. “In the past we did it so it was much more a controlled chaos, kind of exciting, nutty night. This is much smoother and more peaceful and it’s great and the weather is amazing, so it was definitely the right call to move it outside, to keep everybody safe and organized.”
AVSC’s ASK program, formerly called Base Camp, is at the heart of the club’s recreational offerings and seeks to get kids, pre-K through 12th grade, on the snow. Each year, around 1,300 young skiers or snowboarders take part, which makes up more than half the total number of AVSC athletes.
A primary focus of the ASK program is on downvalley students, and the annual equipment night event is a scholarship-based affair that gifts the essential gear, like skis and snowboards, to the athletes. The Gorsuch family has long been behind handing out the skis, while Aspen Skiing Co.’s Four Mountain Sports retail shops are behind the snowboards.
“It shows the incredible generosity of the Gorsuch family for being so committed to making this happen, even at this time. It’s a lot of kids and it’s a lot of families and this component, the equipment component, matters for these kids being able to do it,” Elwell said. “It all has to come together for it to work for a family, so we are so grateful they never ever really flinched or batted an eye on doing it. Their commitment was steadfast and we just had to think outside of the box to make it as successful as possible.”
Wednesday’s event at Crown Mountain Park, which went from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., was for the roughly 200 skiers looking to pick up gear. The snowboarders, around 100 of them, will be able to grab their gear Thursday and Friday at Four Mountain Sports in Aspen during their reserved time slot.
“I’m so impressed with the generosity,” Elwell said. “Just as Gorsuch didn’t hesitate, they were right on board. We all collaborated on the smartest way to do it. Again, I’m grateful for them. The snowboarding component is a big component of our program and similar to the skis, without that piece it would limit people’s opportunities.”
Programming will begin in December, with it really ramping up in January. Elwell said it should be business as usual on the mountain, although getting there will be a bit different with programming times being shuffled around and with staggered starts of no more than 50 athletes each to adhere to local safety requirements related to the pandemic.
New this year is a more advanced “Ridgerunners” option for Level 7 athletes from second to eighth grade on Aspen Mountain.
“We came up with something really great and really solid and really safe and within guidelines and realistic. I’m excited about it,” Elwell said of this year’s programming. “The product is going to be the same. The experience on the mountain is going to be the same for the kids. And as everyone is saying, outdoor recreational opportunities for these kids is more important than ever. It’s great to be a little part of it.”
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While the pandemic is not over, as rules remain in place to guard against the spread of COVID-19, Aspen Junior Hockey is already humming along at a pre-pandemic pace this fall.