Clubhouse Chronicles: Getting back to the basics with the annual Audi Ajax Cup

Mark Godomsky, AVSC executive director
Aspen’s Alex Ferreira competes in the Dec. 30 Audi Ajax Cup on Aspen Highlands. Photo by Matt Power.

Our most anticipated day of the holiday season each year at Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club is Dec. 30, the day of the annual Audi Ajax Cup – our largest and most impactful fundraiser and the reason we’re able to provide as many opportunities as we do to local kids.

If I think back to the afternoon of December 30th, 2019, it feels like a different world. At the 10th annual Audi Ajax Cup, crowds flooded the viewing platform at the base of Aspen Mountain, sipping cocktails and snacking on passed appetizers while racer after racer came flying into the finish.

After the winning team was announced, teammates shared celebratory champagne. Our community enthusiastically greeted each other with kisses on cheeks, danced on a crowded dance floor and introduced us to new friends from faraway places. We had two DJs, a photo booth and an incredible lineup of auction items that would provide unique experiences across the globe.

As we started tentatively putting pieces into place for this year’s event, some changes were obvious. There would be no viewing platform, no tickets sold, no shared champagne, no dance floor, no party. Branded masks would complement this year’s KJUS jackets. We would host this year’s race on the Stapleton Training Center at Aspen Highlands instead of on the Little Nell of Aspen Mountain. Instead of one big tent, we’d have smaller, individual tents for each team.

We hoped that our Audi Ajax Cup community would be excited about the ability to race, but knew that this year’s event would look much different than years past.

It turns out that what remained was what’s most important. With the event in our rearview, we look back with immense gratitude that we were able to strip down our event to its most basic form – a dual giant slalom ski race – and still have an incredibly fun and impactful day.

While there were no grandstands, the camaraderie was palpable in the finish line as teams cheered each other on. All eyes were on the course, more difficult this year thanks to Thunderbowl’s variable terrain and lighting. For the first time, thanks to ChukkerTV, we offered a livestream so that friends of AVSC from near and far could tune in and watch the excitement unfold throughout the day. While we did not have cocktails and passed appetizers circulating, teams enjoyed breakfast and lunch as well as post-race cocktails in their individual tents, where they rested and recharged between runs.

Thank you to all involved, including the Audi Ajax Cup team captains, professional skiers and racers for skiing their hearts out in what turned out to be an incredible battle for the cup. Congratulations to Team Independiente, led by Kristina Koznick Landa, for taking the win and shout out to Team Go Fast or Go Home, led by Jacolyn and John Bucksbaum with pro (and AVSC alumna) Katie Ryan, for putting up an incredible fight!

Furthermore, we are grateful to our event sponsors, including Aspen Skiing Co., for supporting and believing in us despite the challenges this year has presented. Thank you to AVSC staff and volunteers for all of your hard work before, during and after the event.

2021 is AVSC’s 84th year. As a community, we have been through many difficult and many wonderful times together. We are grateful that, through all the ups and downs, our community consistently and passionately supports our effort to give local youth access to the mountains. This year, more than any other, we believe that kids need safe opportunities for outdoor activity, mentorship, growth, challenge and fun! Thank you for helping us make it happen!

Clubhouse Chronicles is a behind-the-scenes column written by the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club that runs periodically in the Outdoors and Sports sections.