Aspen hosting Ski Town Rugby Tournament July 21 at Wagner
All games are played at Wagner Rugby Stadium
9 am: Breck vs. Steamboat
9:50 am: Vail vs. Misfits
10:40 am: Glenwood vs. Aspen
11:30 am: Vail vs. Steamboat
12:20 pm: Breck vs. Glenwood
1:10 pm: Misfits vs. Aspen
2 pm: Vail vs. Glenwood
2:50 pm: Breck vs. Aspen
3:40 pm: Steamboat vs. Misfits
4:30 pm: Semifinal No. 1
5:20 pm: Semifinal No. 2
6:10 pm: Final
*Schedule is subject to change. The games will be played with 20-minute halves with five minutes between matches.
Snow isn’t always necessary when it comes to the rivalry between the ski towns. In the summer months, this friendly (usually) conflict between the various resorts is more often than not played out on the rugby pitch.
This is part of what makes the annual Ski Town Rugby Tournament such a big deal to the regional clubs.
“When we are not doing it in the winter, we are challenging each other in the summer,” said Will Herborn, who coaches the Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Club. “It’s one of those weekends where anything can happen. The format is a bit shorter, so it just takes a couple of chance tries. We’ll see. Anybody could be in the final.”
The tournament rotates between the ski towns each year, usually getting back to each club every five or six summers. This year Aspen is host, with Wagner Park in the downtown core being the battleground for a long day of rugby.
Beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday morning, six teams will play a round robin tournament with the hope of making it to the 6:10 p.m. championship match. The clubs competing include Aspen, Glenwood Springs, Vail, Steamboat Springs, Breckenridge and the Echo Mountain Misfits. Players from the Grand Junction Rugby Club are expected to compete alongside the Misfits while in Aspen.
Competition will be nearly continuous throughout the day Saturday. Matches are to be played in two 20-minute halves with only five minutes between each contest. After each team has played its three guaranteed pool play matches, the top four teams will head to the semifinals, with games being tentatively played at 4:30 and 5:20 p.m.
“It will be a good, solid day of rugby,” Herborn said. “It’s not going to be easy.”
Aspen enters as the defending Ski Town tournament champions, having won last year’s event in Steamboat Springs. However, the Gents’ summer hasn’t gone swimmingly with losses to Steamboat and Vail. The Vail club should be among the favorites, considering it also won the annual Cowpie Classic rugby tournament in Steamboat Springs earlier this summer.
Aspen also happens to be the defending Rocky Mountain Rugby league champs, a title Vail looks poised to take. The Misfits were league runner-up in 2017, followed by Vail in third place.
For the Gents, who are celebrating their 50th year of existence this summer, Ski Town also serves as a prelude to their annual Ruggerfest tournament, which will be held for the 51st time from Sept. 13 to 16.
“I don’t know how it worked out this way, but being the 50th year of the club, it’s pretty cool to have not only that but to have Ruggerfest in the same year,” Herborn said. “It’s going to be great. It’s going to be a good weekend of rugby.”
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Overall state champions in high school skiing are determined by combining results from Alpine and Nordic. Aspen swept both the boys and girls state titles in 2020, just as they did in 2018. The AHS boys also won the state title in 2019, while the girls finished as the state runner-up.