New uphill ushers racers to dark side

Tim Mutrie

They could have called it “Up at Night” or “America’s Darkhill.”Instead, organizers of the newest uphill event in the upper valley, a nighttime ascent of Ajax Saturday, went with “Storm the Stars.”The latest addition to the local BASH uphill series (for Buttermilk, Aspen Mountain, Snowmass and Highlands), Storm the Stars ushers in the first nighttime race of its kind in Aspen, and then some.An Ari Hest concert at the base of the Ajax gondola from 6 to 7:15 p.m., approximately, will pause briefly to send off the racers – at 6:45 p.m. sharp – on their 3,267-vertical-foot trek up Little Nell and Spar Gulch to the summit of Ajax.Up top at the Sundeck, another party – Rock the Stars – will be running from 7 to 10:30 p.m.Registration for the race costs $30. Sign up today at any of the Aspen Skiing Co.’s main ticket offices, or all day Saturday at the gondola ticket office. Registration includes a goodie bag with a Gerber headlamp. Racers may use snowshoes, nordic skis, AT gear or whatever, as well as their preferred choice of lighting.The Ari Hest concert is free and partygoers who want to make the pilgrimage to the top without actually walking there may ride the gondola for $5. Another band will be rocking the Sundeck for the Rock the Stars party, and the 11,212-foot restaurant and bar will be serving throughout.”People are excited about it and people are signing up,” said John Rigney, managing director of event marketing for the Aspen Skiing Co.”Long before we announced this, we went out into the community to get a sense about whether something like this would fly. And the response was an overwhelming yes.”The BASH uphill races have such a great following and the people who do this stuff are passionate about it, so we think aligning ourselves with them is a smart move for our participation,” Rigney continued.Organizers are hoping to attract between 200 and 300 participants in the hill climb.”The idea is, the racers, even the best, are going to take 45 or 50 minutes to get up there. And the average racer will be coming in the one-hour, hour-and-45-minute range. So hopefully we can draw a good crowd up there and create a good buzz,” said Rigney.”We think this event has legs and we could turn it into something special for the future. But in this first crack, we’re really excited to see how it goes and how the community receives it. And, I think it’ll be nice to get people out for one more night before the tourist crush begins.”Tim Mutrie’s e-mail address is