Challenge Aspen sending group of four athletes to NASTAR nationals
For the third year in a row, Deb Gravelle and Challenge Aspen are taking a group of local athletes to the NASTAR National Championships. The popular recreational ski and snowboard race program is holding its finale this week at Squaw Valley in California.
For the four area athletes going west, this will be their first time competing at this level out of the state.
“The last two years it was in Steamboat, so that was a little bit easier,” Gravelle said. “Now this year it is in Squaw and somehow we made it happen.”
Three of the athletes are from Glenwood Springs: Justin Jolley, 19; Tanner Jadwin, 25; and Chris Guay, 37. The other, 27-year-old Lauren Jackson, is from Aspen.
All four had to qualify for the Squaw Valley event.
“They race on the Special Olympics team we have throughout the season. They are super keen and super into it,” Gravelle said. “NASTAR a few years ago created a cognitive disability handicap. So that allows them to actually do well within their age group.”
The trip to nationals comes after a strong showing by the Challenge Aspen crew at the state championships at Copper Mountain. Along with the four national-bound athletes, Gary Anders, Ella Munk, Elliott Maxwell and Matthew Boyles also competed at state.
Anders, 73 of Glenwood, competed in the giant slalom and slalom and took home a gold medal. Munk, 17 of Carbondale, also competed in both events and while she didn’t medal, “made it through all courses with a huge smile on her face.”
The other five competed in the super-G as well as the GS and slalom. Maxwell, 19 of Carbondale, won two golds and a bronze. Jolley, 19, won a gold and two silvers. Jadwin, 25, won a gold and two silvers and even set the super-G course record. Jackson won a silver and a bronze, Guay two golds and Boyles, 31 of Rifle, one gold and two silvers.
“It was really blistering cold,” Gravelle said of the state championships. “The wind was just blowing. I have no idea what the temperature was, but it was pretty miserable. But they all hung in there and did great.”
Gravelle, who helped create the Challenge Aspen race program, said they have been talking with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club about possibly participating in the Unified Special Olympics next year.
The opening ceremony for this week’s NASTAR nationals takes place Thursday afternoon in Squaw Valley with racing throughout the weekend.
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Aspen Mountain opened for the season on Wednesday, a day earlier than originally planned. Top-to-bottom snowmaking, a solid recent storm and well-behaved guests made for a great experience despite all of the extra precautions.