Base Camp creates access to mountain lifestyle | AspenTimes.com

Base Camp creates access to mountain lifestyle

AVSC staff report
Penguins and princesses, turtles and turkeys flocked to the slopes recently during the wrapup events for AVSC's Base Camp programs. A record number of youth, more than 1,700, were served this season.
Team AVSC photo |

Founded upon the idea that every single child in the Roaring Fork Valley should have the opportunity to ski or ride, AVSC’s Base Camp program is wrapping up what looks to be a record-setting season.

This year, some 1,729 kids, ages 3½ to high school, took part in “kinder,” (Powder Pandas, Aspenauts and Big Horns), and school-age (Snowarriors, SnoCru and Ridgerunners) programs on three of the Aspen Skiing Co. mountains, according to director Trish Shepard.

Base Camp’s reach spans from Aspen/Snowmass to beyond Rifle, she said.

Base Camp also includes a growing Nordic component that meets after school in Aspen and at Spring Gulch near Carbondale.

No matter what the preference, be it ski or snowboard, the Base Camp classes put fun at the forefront in the 6, 8 and 12-day programs that concluded with giant slalom races, bump contests and picnic parties.

AVSC makes sure that all who want to take part in the programs are able to participate, regardless of their means. This season, 421 young athletes received scholarships that totaled $150,000, which meant some families paid just $75 in fees that also included transportation. (Assistance is offered on a sliding scale.)

Six buses teeming with Base Campers were put into action on Saturdays for the trip to the three host mountains. Gorsuch and D&E provided gear for scholarship recipients in the form of 200 ski packages and 140 snowboards.

In describing Base Camp’s mission, Shepard said, modestly, “We create access to the mountain lifestyle.”

But it’s more than that, really. Skico instructors or “pros,” about 320 this year, impart skier safety while working to create a little community during their time with the students.

That can make a huge impact on someone who may come from a single parent household, Shepard said.

“The pros that come back, year after year, really look forward to working with these kids,” in some cases giving up more lucrative private lessons in order to do so.

AVSC’s ski and snowboard classes also bring together kids from different schools, who might otherwise not have the chance to become acquainted.

Little wonder then why the Base Camp programs, most of which finished last weekend, are such a hot commodity.

To ensure a space next season, Shepard recommends families sign up early, well before the first snowflake flies.

Onto the team

Some Base Camp “graduates” opt to move to AVSC competitive alpine, adaptive, freestyle/freeskiing, snowboarding and Nordic teams. This year, there are 629 team athletes representing AVSC at local, regional, national and international events.

About a dozen alpine skiers traveled to Telluride last weekend for the U10 championships. Meanwhile, 20 U12 alpine athletes are bound for Powderhorn to begin their championships’ events on Saturday. Until two seasons ago, both age groups competed at the same venue on the same weekend.

“It got so popular, with too many kids on the start list, that they had to split it,” said head age class coach Willy Volckhausen. “It naturally evolved. That’s really good, organic growth of the ski world,” he said.

Highlights from the weekend included second and third place finishes in the slalom by Stella Sherlock. Chase Kelly was fifth in the men’s race.

The U14 skiers are in Winter Park for the Rocky/Central Championships, with results to be published in next week’s paper.

Meanwhile, AVSC’s U16 athletes finished a successful championships week that kicked off in a full-blown blizzard and ended under sunny Steamboat skies.

Heading to the U16 Nationals in Maine are: Isabella Johansson, Cooper Cornelius and Dexter Edelman. Selections were made based upon results from the super G, giant slalom and slalom (but not the downhill).

AVSC’s Anna Patterson qualified for the Can-Am races, which open later this week.

Copper Mountain was home to the U18 Nationals, which also recently wrapped. AVSC’s Katy Harris took fourth overall and has qualified for the U.S. Nationals. Sky Kelsey, AVSC alum, was fourth among the men, buoyed by wins in the downhills. Tristan Lane, who was second and eighth, and Chapin Newhard also represented AVSC.

AVSC alum Galena Wardle headed to the FIS World Alpine Junior Championships in Hafjell, Norway, right after Copper. Wardle didn’t finish her first race, a slalom that was won by U.S. teammate Paula Moltzan.

March 9 marked the opening event of the 2015 Cross-Country Junior Nationals in Truckee, California.

Hailey Swirbul set a good pace by finishing fourth in the freestyle sprint.

Chelsea Moore advanced to the quarterfinals that day. The six-person team also includes: Jozie Wille, Nick Sweeney, Graham Houtsma and Jack Sweeney.

Adaptive athletes representing AVSC competed this past week on different sides of the globe. Mike Shea grabbed gold in the banked slalom while Heidi Jo Duce finished with silver in boardercross at the IPC world championships.

In men’s boardercross, Shea was fifth and Keith Gabel, 7th.

Snowboard head coach Miah Wheeler, who works with able-bodied and adaptive athletes at AVSC, said the U.S. Team took the overall medal count during these races in La Molina, Spain. Some of those same elite competitors are expected to start in the IPC snowboarding national championships that come to Snowmass on April 2 and 3.

Able-bodied snowboard team member Chris Corning, in his first year of training with AVSC, has qualified for the FIS Junior Worlds, Wheeler said.

AVSC Adaptive skiers are currently in Panorama, Canada, for their world championships event. More than half, or eight, of AVSC’s team of adaptive skiers qualified, according to head coach Jonathan Mika. Podiums include bronze for Laurie Stephens in the combined event (super G and slalom) and bronze for Andrew Kurka in the super G.

Freestyle/Freeskiing

At the Rocky Mountain Divisional Championships in Telluride last weekend, AVSC athletes continued their upward trajectory in a contest that brings together the region’s best mogul skiers.

“It is a mandatory event for anyone looking to go on to the junior nationals or the U.S. National Championships,” said head mogul coach Kris Pepe.

Colby Lee, who has qualified for the nationals in Steamboat Springs, skied to 8th, while his younger brother Aaron Lee was 19th. Aaron also took home the Rocky Mountain Sportsmanship award, an honor Colby won two years ago.

“Both brothers having won that award really let’s you know what kind of family they come from,” Pepe said.

Sierra Reeves finished 29th, as the talented skier from Snowmass Village continues to build experience.

Anyone who’s ever skied Crested Butte knows that the mountain face is littered with steep faces and chutes that seem tailor-made for “extreme” skiing.

On March 7-8, AVSC’s Big Mountain crew headed to the Butte for an IFSA national event. While the competition was tough as nails, Maxine Mellin, Will Morris, Nick Mitchell and Nick Goralka all scored top 10 finishes.

Back home here in Aspen, their younger compatriots were pulling out all of the stops in the Devo 1 and Devo 2 “Triple Crown” comps that unrolled over the weekend. Results from Devo 1 follow in the agate section while the Devo 2 results are being “saved” for the year-end party.

Learn more about AVSC’s PreDevo and Devo programs from the March 11 GrassRoots TV program, “Weekly with Walt.” It debuts at 7 p.m. on Channel 12 (or Channel 82 downvalley) and is shown multiple times throughout the weekend.


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