Premium snow for annual Owl Creek Chase

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times

The best overall snow conditions in years will greet skiers in the annual Owl Creek Chase – the cross country rite of winter for Aspen and Snowmass since 1985.

The annual Nordic race from Snowmass Village to Aspen will return Sunday as part of the weekend-long Aspen Nordic Festival.

The festival will open with Aspen High School hosting high school and middle school cross country races at the Aspen Valley Ski Club trail system on Saturday. The trails are adjacent to the Aspen school campus.

The featured point-to-point Owl Creek Chase, one of the state’s oldest continuous cross country races, is set for Sunday on the trails of the Aspen-Snowmass Nordic system, starting at the Snowmass Nordic Center.

New this year, the Owl Creek Chase will finish at the Aspen Nordic Center (the Aspen Golf Course).

The traditional classic technique race will start at 9 a.m. Sunday.

Also this year, there will be a skate-technique race, starting at 9:30 a.m.

The 21-kilometer Owl Creek Chase races and the Aspen High School races will be staged on a Nordic snowpack that is the best in the last decade, according to groomers with the Aspen-Snowmass Nordic Council.

The races are held in conjunction with Aspen Parks and Recreation.

For race entry information, visit

The Owl Creek Chase will begin with a loop around the Snowmass Club Golf Course (the Snowmass Nordic Center).

Then, the course will connect to the Owl Creek Trail for the uphill and downhill backcountry route to Aspen.

The trail will cross Buttermilk and then take skiers across the Tiehack bridge, connecting to trails that lead to the Aspen Nordic Center and the finish.

Race participants are reminded that there is no parking at the starting line Sunday morning in Snowmass.

Participants are encouraged to park at the finish at the Aspen Nordic Center and take the complimentary shuttle buses to the start in Snowmass Village.

Shuttles are scheduled to run from the start at 7, 7:30, 7:45, 8 and 8:30 a.m. Sunday.

Three aid stations are planned along the 21-kilometer route that features tough climbs, challenging downhills and spectacular views.

The stations will be at 6.5 kilometers, 11.3 kilometers and 16.1 kilometers.

Defending champions in the Owl Creek Chase classic race are Ben Koons and Kara Borchers.

One day before the Owl Creek Chase, high school cross country racers will set the tone for the weekend.

The Aspen High School-hosted Nordic events will start with the girls high school 6-kilometer race at 11 a.m. Saturday.

The boys prep 6K will start at noon.

Middle school girls will race a 3K course at 1 p.m. Middle school boys will wrap up the day with their race at 1:45 p.m.