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Downhill mountain bikers hit Snowmass

Scott Schlafer
Special to The Aspen Times

With the largest lift-served descent trail in the country, Snowmass Village is home to one of the world’s most extreme bike-racing events. The Master of the Mass is a mountain-bike race consisting of four disparate stages descending more than 8,000 feet, with an interesting twist — the racers may use only one bicycle.

The event includes super-downhill, cross country, downhill and chainless downhill events.

The super-downhill will be the opening event starting from the peak of Elk Camp and running to the Snowmass Rodeo parking lot.

It’s scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. Friday.

This segment is famous for its descent of 3,500 feet over a distance of 8.5 miles. Racers can reach speeds as fast as 35 mph on their way down. The chainless downhill is also unique by only allowing racers to use their brakes while restricting them from pedaling down the mountain.

The Master of the Mass victor is determined by the total amount of points accumulated from the four races and wins a prize purse of $3,000.

Last year’s winner was professional bicyclist Nathaniel Hills, of Dillon. At 36, Hills travels the country for bike races, but he said Snowmass is one of his favorite places to ride.

“I enjoy the whole lifestyle of biking,” Hills said. “Being fit, healthy and athletic — it’s a good way to live.”

Certainly the Master of the Mass demands that its competitors be in top physical condition in order to compete safely in the dangerous event. Over the roughly eight years that Hills has been racing, he has broken his back, thumbs, tibia and fibula and suffered a handful of shoulder injuries and dozens of concussions.

“You have to pay the price, and hopefully when you’re 50 you can still move around pretty well,” Hills said. “At the end of the day, biking is well worth it for all the enjoyment.”

“The Master of the Mass is an event about people’s all-around ability in various terrains,” said Deric Gunshor, Aspen Skiing Co. senior manager of event marketing.

Seeing that this style and discipline of mountain biking was growing in popularity, Gunshor decided that this event would be successful in Snowmass. Last year was the first Master of the Mass, with more than 50 competitors; Gunshor hopes to get even more this weekend.

The best place for spectating is at Base Village, according to Gunshor. The competing divisions include professional male and female, amateur male and female, and juniors ages 13 to 17. Registration for the race will remain open until the event kicks off Friday afternoon.

There will be trail closures in connection with Friday’s racing.

The closures will be from 3:30-5:30 p.m. and will involve the Government Trail (Snowmass Mountain to Anaerobic Nightmare), Anaerobic Nightmare, Tom Blake (Anaerobic Nightmare to Owl Creek Trail), and Highline.

For registration information, visit: http://www.aspensnowmass.com/en/events-and-activities/events/master-of-the-mass.

Scott Schlafer is working at The Aspen Times as an intern this summer.


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