Clubhouse Chronicles: A NASCAR champ and X Games champ walk into a ski race…
AVSC executive director
On Dec. 30, Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club hosted our 10th annual Audi Ajax Cup on the face of Aspen Mountain. Sixteen teams battled it out in the morning to secure a spot in the finals and a shot at winning the coveted Gorsuch Cup and a silver belt buckle. Teams were led by team captains and professional skiers ranging from renowned speed skier and Hahnenkamm winner Daron Rahlves to AVSC head U16 Alpine coach Casey Puckett to AVSC and U.S. Ski Team alumna Katie Ryan.
The race came down to team Alpine Bank and team West End Hillbillies — an even match until the final race between the team’s pros: U.S. Alpine ski team alumnus Nolan Kasper and U.S. freestyle team member, X Games champion and Olympic silver medalist Alex Ferreira, also an AVSC alumnus and board member.
While this is my fourth Ajax Cup as AVSC’s executive director, it was my first in the finish corral during the final round of racing. The excitement was palpable, the crowd falling quiet as they grew more and more focused on the impending result. When Alex crossed the finish line just a hair ahead of Nolan, spectators erupted with excitement as the West End Hillbillies’ team captain Jimmie Johnson rushed toward Alex for a congratulatory and celebratory hug.
Watching this scene unfold epitomized both the magnitude and uniqueness of this event. Here we are at the base of Aspen Mountain — a place steeped in ski racing history from the start. We are surrounded by caring and compassionate community members, many of whom are Audi Ajax Cup team captains, assembling their own communities to rally behind ours. We are surrounded by businesses, families, community members, and others who, through both gestures large and small, show their commitment to local kids and their growth. We are surrounded by a culture of passion, competition, excellence, and overall, fun.
Across the world, the Roaring Fork Valley is known for many things. To us, it is a caring and compassionate community that we’re incredibly lucky to call home. It is a playground in which to grow and learn respect for ourselves and for others. A place to experience failure and success. A place to develop our passions, challenge ourselves, and pursue excellence.
Maybe that’s why the Audi Ajax Cup is such a fun event year after year: it emulates many of the lessons that our athletes are learning on a daily basis. Plus, where else in the world do you find yourself in the finish corral of a ski race with a seven-time NASCAR champion and an Olympic silver medalist, who after spending a day together are fast friends?
Thank you to our incredible Audi Ajax Cup team captains, race chairs, event chairs, business sponsors, staff, pros, racers, spectators, volunteers, and more. Without each and every one of you, we would not have raised nearly $900,000 to continue to provide local kids access to the mountains. A special thank you to Aspen Skiing Co., who generously allows us to run the race on Little Nell during the busiest week of the year!
Clubhouse Chronicles is a behind-the-scenes column written by the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club that runs periodically in the Outdoors section.
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Oregon’s Laurenne Ross and New Castle’s Alice McKennis Duran both announced their retirement in recent days and celebrated together during Saturday’s downhill. McKennis Duran is a local namesake who grew up skiing at Sunlight in Glenwood and formerly trained with the AVSC.