Aspen locals ready to race |

Aspen locals ready to race

Mark Fox/The Aspen Times

ASPEN ” Jim Lindsay was bedridden, running a fever of 104 degrees, and yet all he could think about was whether he had enough energy to get into his ski boots.

He swears he wasn’t delusional, just a bit obsessed.

When you’re the iron man of the The Aspen Times Town Race Series and your 28-year attendance streak is on the line, there’s no time to get sick.

“I was having fantasies of getting up and going to the race, but I wasn’t sure if I could drive or get my boots on,” said the longtime local. “It was a makeup race anyway. I’m not sure if it even counts.”

While that’s debatable, there’s no arguing this: Since 1980, Aspenites of various ages and racing pedigrees have come to count on the local series ” the country’s longest running ” as one constant in a town where tradition is perpetually on the selling block.

Lindsay is the proprietor of a custom ski boot-fitting business in Aspen who previously spent six years working on boots for elite racers on the World Cup circuit. His fixation with the local series, he said, is about living out a fantasy of wearing someone else’s boots for a few select days each winter.

“Pretending you’re a ski racer is a lot of fun,” he said. “Standing around in the start area and thinking about this turn and that turn. The camaraderie is also great. I’ve been racing with some of the same people for 25 years.”

It’s not especially hard to pretend you’re Hermann Maier, either, when, as is often the case in the town series’ competitive division, there is the chance to race against retired World Cup competitors.

One of those is local shop owner Dave Stapleton, an Aspen native who raced on the World Cup circuit from 1976-1981 before embarking on an 11-year pro career.

Stapleton doesn’t have the attendance record that Lindsay boasts in the town series, but when it comes to speed, he’s in a class of his own.

At last winter’s ATTRS finale, a “giant” giant slalom at Aspen Highlands that resembled an actual World Cup course set, Stapleton crushed the field, besting his nearest competitor by 3.5 seconds.

“There’s not a lot of competition for me out there,” admitted Stapleton, who, nearing 50, still foreran the World Cup giant slalom course before the annual Winternational women’s races this past November. “I don’t do as many of the town races anymore, but at the end of the season, when they have the full-length GS, I always do that. That’s a race that will put in perspective what kind of skier you are.”

Stapleton also admitted that he can’t pass up the chance to get in the start gate when there’s another ringer in the field, like Austrian skiing legend Marc Girardelli, a frequent Aspen visitor. Girardelli claimed a record five World Cup overall titles in the 1980s and ’90s, but as Stapleton boasted, “the last time he raced he raced here; he was not in first place.”

“He hasn’t been back since I beat him.”

It’s not just skiing celebrities who make it out to bash gates, either. TV personality Judge Joe Brown, a second-home owner, is a regular in the recreational division, which competes on six Sundays during January and March. The competitive division ” which has qualification standards ” holds it races on Saturdays.

There’s also the vaunted speed series: a super combined (super G and slalom) at Aspen Highlands, followed by a super G and a downhill on Racer’s Edge at Buttermilk that come after the regular series concludes.

Most town race series around the country only host tech races (GS and slalom), but the Aspen series has never been content to stick to the status quo. While the additional speed races and the big names that often show up to race add some cachet, series director Scott Nichols said it’s the everyday locals who really make the series go. That’s something that hasn’t changed as the series nears its 30-year mark.

“If this was the Midwest, this would be a bowling league,” Nichols said, “but this is Aspen. What’s neat about the series is that it reflects our town. We have such a diverse group of people and athletes that participate in the series over the season.”

That includes aspiring ski racers from the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club and one septuagenarian whose youthful spirit is contagious. It also comprises telemarkers and venturesome snowboarders.

The diversity also breeds some interesting team competition, especially in the Saturday series. The team sponsor names have changed over the years, but in large part, as Lindsay pointed out, the rivalries between certain racers have persisted”some longer than two decades.

“It’s a great team competition,” Stapleton said. “You go out and race and then you go to the post-race parties with video afterward and you drink some beers and tell stories. It’s just a lot of fun.”

“Some people who really grab a hold of it have become great free-skiers as a result,” Nichols added. “We certainly have improved their skiing and riding skills. It’s a great place to have fun and make some friends.”

Saturday Series Advanced Division

Location: Thunderbowl on Aspen Highlands

January 3 – Giant Slalom

January 17 – Slalom

January 24 – Giant Slalom

March 7 – Slalom

March 14 – Giant Slalom

March 21 – Slalom

Post-race BBQ and awards at finish area

Sunday Series Recreational Division

Location: Thunderbowl on Aspen Highlands

January 4 – Giant Slalom

January 18 – Slalom

January 25 – Giant Slalom

March 8 – Slalom

March 15 – Giant Slalom

March 22 – Slalom

Post-race BBQ and awards at finish area

Speed Series

February 6-8 – John Meyer Memorial Super G/Town Downhill – Location: Racer’s Edge on

Buttermilk, post-race party at Bumps

March 28 – BOOTech Super Combined Super G/Slalom (one run SG, one run SL) –

Location: Golden Horn/Thunderbowl on Aspen Highlands, post-race party at Highlands Pizza Company

Additional Speed Event

February 13-15 – Rocky Mountain Masters Super G/Downhill

Post-race party at Bumps at Buttermilk

– Call 544-3005 for more information. For race updates call 544-3029.

– Register at Highlands Pizza Company on race day: 8 to 9:30 a.m. for Advanced Division; 8:30 to 10 a.m. for Recreational Division.

– Advanced Division races begin at 11 a.m.; Recreational Series races begin at 11:30 a.m.

– Cost is $26/race or $130/season (six races) OR form a team of six for $620.

– Post-race video, results and raffle at Highlands Pizza Company from 4 to 5:30 p.m.

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