This week at AVSC

AVSC staff report
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Contributed photoWords with Letters mixed it up during the fifth annual Fallen Friends event at Aspen Highlands. The team featuring Packy and Ben Westfeldt, Amelia "Wheels Burns, Markus, Ryan Odell and Michael Olenick, won best costume and finished second overall.

ASPEN – During the last week, Aspen Valley Ski Club athletes participated in events from Sun Valley to Steamboat Springs and from Park City, Utah, to Waterville Valley, N.H.

Here at home, the club was instrumental in organizing community events that took full advantage of the excellent late season snow conditions.

On Saturday, the fifth annual Fallen Friends competition, which stresses creativity, team tricks and friendly on-hill rivalries, was waged on a surprisingly cold day at Aspen Highlands.

Originally, it was organized to honor Wallace Westfeldt and Johnny Nicoletta, extraordinary athletes who passed away in separate incidents in April 2008.

Last weekend, those who weren’t personally touched by these remarkable souls may have used the Fallen Friends occasion to reflect upon people they did know, who were lost doing what they loved in the mountain environment.

Snowboarders and skiers, 18 teams in all, faced off in this gentle fundraiser, benefitting AVSC scholarships, on Scarlett’s Run. While ever-respectful of their passing, this year’s Fallen Friends event was filled with so much mirth and laughter, soft snow and silly costumes, plus big air and solid turns, that reflections were always upbeat.

There went PacMan and his ghosts.

Did you catch that crocodile hunter and his mates?

And how about the ketchup and mustard bottles, who performed that great tandem jump? As the Beach Boys and the Honey Badgers battled for awards and prizes, a hardy audience hooted from the Merry-Go-Round deck.

The Scrabble game that came to life, “Words with Friends,” brought poignancy but also hilarity to jumbled letters. It was “Steve Irwin and the Croc Hunters” who ended up taking top honors (three of the four team members – Madison Bailey, Brandon Rohrbaugh and Blake Axelson – also comprised the victorious team last year). Wylie Adams was also among the winners.

The AVSC air bag on Thunderbowl was the focus of much attention during the last week. On Wednesday, freestylers and snowboarders shared their giant air mattress with the likes of the alpine team. Even a casual observer could sense their delight in showing off tricks to the more regimented group of gate runners.

Many took to the ramp and bag with ease while others found air time a tad intimidating. The opportunity brought together high-flying friends, who might not otherwise train together on the hill.

Also last week, AVSC hosted a special Bag Ladies of Aspen women-only session for the young and young-at-heart.

“The girls had fun. New tricks were learned,” said Tyler Lindsay, snowboarding director.


The Revolution Tour swung by Sun Valley last week, and AVSC’s Robert Pettit was 10th in a run in the 22-foot pipe.

Lindsay said the run was a cork frontside 540 into a backside 540 into an inverted frontside 7, followed by a switch frontside 7. A frontside 900 finished things up.

Jake Orzech was 16th, Shane Serrano finished 32nd.

Lindsay and the team are preparing for the 2013 USASA Snowboard National Championships that begin next weekend and continue through April 5 at Copper Mountain.


Andra Sakson and Colby Lee are in Heavenly Valley, Calif.,

for the Sprint U.S. Freestyle Nationals.

The AVSC athletes are scheduled to compete in the March 29 men’s and women’s mogul events. Dual moguls are on the nationals schedule for Sunday.

Lee and Sakson are taking on a field deep with international and Olympic experience.


At the U.S. Adaptive Championships at Park City, Utah, Brian Follett and guide Scot Jones took silver in the men’s visually impaired (VI) slalom.

AVSC won gold and bronze in boys sitting. Heath Calhoun was the winner with Chris Devlin Young in third.

In women’s standing, Melanie Schwartz was third and in women’s sitting, Laurie Stephens won bronze.

In the giant slalom, Follett finished with bronze with Tyler Walker taking the gold in the men’s sitting division.

Chris Devlin Young won the bronze.

In women’s sitting, Laurie Stephens took bronze in GS.

In the second giant slalom of the week, Follett/Jones took bronze in men’s VI, Heath Calhoun and Tyler Walker finished first and third in men’s sitting, and Caitie Sarubbi and her guide James Lawrence took the bronze in women’s VI.

In women’s sitting, Laurie Stephens was third.


While the Fallen Friends were raging on Scarlett’s Run, the youngest and oldest members of the alpine team were taking part in a day of mentoring.

“The goal is to integrate the age groups a bit so they know each other. Also, it is very good for the older kids to have to articulate what to work on to another athlete,” Alpine Director Greg Needell said.

“For the younger ones, it just makes them feel cool, and they get to start having meaningful discussions with the older athletes regarding a common skill.”

The pairings brought a few smiles when 5-11Alex Pavon skied with McKenna Kiker, a U14 skier of average height.


In alumni news, AVSC’s Wiley Maple raced at the U.S. Nationals in Squaw Valley, Calif., and his best finish was eighth in super-G. The final series of the year for elite skiers concluded Sunday with women’s slalom.

On the other coast, Sam Coffey, Aspen native, continues to tear it up in NCAA races.

Coffey, racing for the University of New Hampshire, was just .01 off first in a March 24 slalom at the Eastern Cup Finals Series.

Coffey was fifth in another slalom and third in the giant slalom. The races were held at Stowe, Vt., and Waterville Valley, N.H.

A small group of alpine racers who are moving up to the next age group (U16) traveled to Steamboat for the SmartWool Finale. There was one giant slalom, one slalom and one dual event at the venues, Mount Werner and Howelsen Hill. This was the first time these skiers have competed in two-run (combined time) races.

One goal of the weekend was to dip a toe into the world of race points, a complicated and at times confusing ranking system used in the alpine world.

Coach Sean Thomas said the kids “were very funny trying to figure out the whole point thing.”

Notable finishes were recorded by Dexter Edelman (winner in U14 category) and Anna Patterson (second in U14 giant slalom).

The coaches were invited to compete in their own dual races. The two Seans, AVSC’s Sean Thomas and Sean Chatellard, took their turn on the steep and slick Howelsen Hill.


“The AVSC Nordic competition season is a wrap,” said Toby Morse, AVSC nordic director, who will discuss the year in review on the GrassRoots TV program “Weekly with Walt,” at l7 p.m. today. (The program repeats five times during the week.)

Morse, who is retiring from AVSC coaching, will join junior national champion Keegan Swirbul and his sister, Hailey Swirbul, who was a top finisher at the U.S. Nationals in Fairbanks, Alaska, on the program.

AVSC Excellence Director Walt Evans will interview U.S. Ski Team member Simi Hamilton and Chelsea Moore, a development athlete and Aspen Middle School student.

The season’s final Nordic event, “Night of the Norseman,” a fun evening of dinner, music and dancing, will be April 5 at T Lazy 7 Ranch. For tickets, go to