Column: What goes up, goes down Aspen Mountain |

Column: What goes up, goes down Aspen Mountain

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times
Dale Strode

Aspen’s propensity for going to extremes is alive and well, weather permitting.

Someone is always willing to push the extremes to extremes.

Witness the first 12-hour endurance uphill race on Aspen Mountain last weekend with its eclectic field of power hikers/runners.

Produced by Red Bull in connection with Aspen Skiing Co., the first Red Bull Rise in Aspen paid a total purse of $6,000 with the men’s and women’s winners each earning $1,250 — that’s some incentive to go extreme.

The field bolted up Ajax from the dawn start at 7 a.m. Sunday at the base of the gondola.

After hiking to the summit, the uphillers rode the gondola to the base, where they repeated the lap.

Again and again.

With uphill legend J.P. Donovan of Incline Village, Nevada, hiking away from the rest of the field, Mother Nature intervened eight hours into the endurance contest.

Sunday afternoon’s thunderstorms forced the shutdown of the Silver Queen Gondola by 3 p.m.

The race was called at 4:30 p.m. with Donovan declared the men’s winner.

He had climbed Ajax eight times (25,600 vertical feet). He averaged a quick 50 minutes, 25 seconds per uphill.

The racers were timed by chip only on the uphill portion of the laps.

Aspen Mountain ski patroller and endurance athlete Max Taam was second with seven completed laps (22,400 vertical). Taam averaged 57 minutes, 5 seconds per uphill.

For the record, the course was directly up Ajax from Little Nell with a vertical of 3,200 feet per lap.

Anna Mae Flynn of Tahoma, California, won the women’s division and was third overall.

She averaged 58 minutes, 33 seconds per climb.

The summer uphill race at Aspen Mountain last week conjured up memories and stories of the winter endurance race held at Ajax during the 1990s — the 24 Hours of Aspen.

That was the Land Rover 24 Hours of Aspen, to be specific.

The event was a 24-hour downhill ski race on Ajax with two-person ski teams competing and representing countries all over the world.

Organizers set up large floodlights at various locations from the summit down Dipsy Doodle, past Lift 3 and Lift 6 and all the way down Spar Gulch.

A huge stadium light box was set up at Kleenex Corner with more lights on Little Nell.

The two-skier teams raced on downhill skis all the way to the base of the gondola, where a snow ramp whisked them right into the gondola loading station.

Volunteers caught the skiers, popped off their skis and sent the skiers back to the top.

The racing went on for 24 hours, coincidentally matching the partying that went on in connection with the 24 Hours of Aspen.

Yes, a 24-hour party followed by a precipitous 48-hour drop in productivity for every volunteer — and there were many, many, many volunteers.

The 24 Hours of Aspen created the legend of Canadian superman Chris Kent, who dominated in the early years of the event while successfully dodging a midnight fox one year and a rabbit the next.

Seventy-five or so laps for the winners.

Countless other legends came to race in the 24 Hours of Aspen.

Some of the best skiers in the world, such as Doug Coombs and Chris Davenport.

And Aspen’s Scott Nichols, who teamed with Coombs one year for the 24 Hours of Aspen.

Nichols and Coombs: Now that’s Aspen Extreme.