Nerves of Steele |

Nerves of Steele

It appears art school has been good to Steele Spence. At least it hasn’t hurt his skiing.

Spence, a Snowmass Village native and one of 12 Team Aspen Snowmass members, recently returned home from art school in Denver ” with a limited number of ski days under his belt ” just in time to win the first Bud Light Big Air event at Snowmass.

“I’m stoked,” Spence said, after throwing a Bio 900 and sticking the landing to win the skiing side of the event, and $500. Roughly 20 skiers and 15 snowboarders, most of them locals, competed.

“It feels good to be home,” he said. “I saw everyone today, it was really cool.”

The event was the second of six installments in the Budweiser Hi-Fi concert series, which is being held at Snowmass and Ajax throughout the season. It was also a taste of what’s to come with Big Air Fridays, which will be held at the base of Snowmass every Friday in February and March. The first event, Thanksjibbing, was held at the base of Ajax over the Thanksgiving weekend.

“It was a lot of fun, definitely a nice venue,” said Chris Klug, a Team Aspen Snowmass member and an Olympic medal winner. He was one of the emcees.

Klug recently returned from a string of World Cup competitions, where he had a couple top-10 finishes, but he won’t be home for long. Klug, who had liver transplant surgery in 2000, leaves for Pasadena, Calif., in a couple days, where he’ll board a float in the New Year’s Day Rose Parade to promote organ donations.

“Being in Aspen and Snowmass for [the holidays], there’s nothing better, it’s pretty amazing.”

The event kicked off with a jam session ” somewhat of a preliminary round ” before four snowboarders and five skiers were chosen for the finals, which consisted of only one final jump.

Dan Fuller, who grew up in Basalt but now lives in Park City, Utah, won the snowboarding side of the event.

“Fuller killed it today,” Spence said.

Coming in second was Doran Laybourn, of Team Aspen Snowmass, followed by Kyle Logan, who’s sponsored by Aspen/Snowmass. Avery Karas, also sponsored by Aspen/Snowmass, made the finals but did not place.

Spence was followed by Aspen/Snowmass-sponsored skier Marcus Berneir of Glenwood Springs and Michael Olenick of Carbondale, who’s a member of Team Aspen Snowmass. Olenick’s brother, Peter, also made the finals but not place. Matt Terral of Aspen rounded out the skiing finalists.

Spence said landing his Bio 900 cleanly was the key to his victory.

“Kids like the Olenicks were doing harder tricks, but I had a little cleaner landing,” Spence said.

Following the competition, Riddlin’ Kids, a punk band from Austin, Texas, performed on an outdoor stage next to the jump. Despite the frigid temperatures, a good crowd hung on for the show.

“I think it’s really important to make these events accessible, and I think that’s what [Snowmass] has done,” Klug said. “And the fusion of music and action sports is a good combo, it really makes for a cool environment, and it’s all right in our back yard.”

The Budweiser Hi-Fi Concert Series returns to Aspen on Jan. 27 and March 20. Snowmass events are set for Feb. 21 and April 11.

Steve Benson’s e-mail address is

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