ASPEN SHOULD RACE TO KEEP RACES IN TOWN
by Todd Hartley
If you weren’t in Aspen last week, you missed out on a heck of a party during the World Cup finals. It was the biggest sporting event in the city’s history, and I think Aspen knocked it out of the park. Things really couldn’t have gone much better.
The races were exciting, with plenty of drama; the courses held up beautifully, despite temperatures in the 60s; and the weather — well, if there’s such a thing as too perfect, a week in March with nary a cloud certainly qualifies.
But it wasn’t just the event itself. Everyone seemed to love the beer garden and barbecue in Wagner Park. (In fact, I heard more than one person remark that the town should keep it, and I can’t say I disagree.) And the free, all-ages concerts in the park, headlined by Michael Franti and Spearhead, were a huge hit.
To me, though, the best thing about the whole World Cup shebang was how local it all felt. Nothing against the X Games, but in many ways they’re like some ESPN-controlled alien that descends on Buttermilk each January. The people producing it are from somewhere else, and the crowd, as far as I can tell, is mostly youngsters from the Front Range.
This was different in almost every way. It was right in town, for one thing, though it required a bit of a trek up the hill to reach the stands. And the crowd was much more my speed — flag-waving locals, school kids who’d gotten the day off to watch the races, and fun-loving European fans who’d come to town to cheer on their nations’ racers.
I had the privilege of landing a job working in the VIP tent for all five days of the event (which, admittedly, may be giving me a rose-colored perspective on the proceedings). My pass allowed me access to the broadcast booth, and rather than some random ESPN announcers there was Aspen’s Chris Davenport at the mic, with Olympic snowboarder and local real estate broker Chris Klug handling the fan interaction and award ceremonies.
The guys from one of our local TV stations, Aspen 82, took care of all the video chores. I was part of the team from Carbondale-based Alchemy Concert Systems that rigged and ran the speakers and TVs. And my old buddy DJ Naka G was playing the music and national anthems. The only non-local was Davenport’s broadcast partner, Kaylin Richardson, and we didn’t mind having her in the booth one bit.
My role during the races — babysitting some TVs, speakers and hanging lights — allowed me to hobnob with the VIPs as well as the staff, and I was privy to a couple things that you don’t see too many other places that reminded me of why I love Aspen.
On one of the days, I wore a baseball cap without sweat stains, a pair of chinos and a bright blue pullover that was practically a long-sleeved T-shirt. One of the operations guys I’d been working with accused me of dressing up. That should give you an idea of what VIP-section dress codes are like in Aspen.
The better story, however, concerned a man I met on the Monday before the event when I was there to set up. He was a littlish guy, weathered looking, probably in his late 50s, and he told me he was looking to land some work with Mountain Temp Services. I wished him luck and figured I’d never see him again.
That guy got himself a gig in the VIP tent busing tables and hauling trash for the full five days, and he worked his ass off the whole time. He seemed really happy to be doing it, too.
But that’s the sort of thing that would never happen in a big city or during an event run by people from Los Angeles, New York and Bristol, Connecticut. That’s one of the great charms of living in a community like the one we have here.
So for the sake of the little temp guy and others like him, for the sake of reconnecting with our ski-racing roots and for the sake of throwing a kick-ass party, I implore Aspen Skiing Co. to replace Lift 1A as soon as possible and score an annual stop on the World Cup circuit.
If a new lift is what it’s going to take, then get it done.
Todd Hartley wasn’t quite a VIP. He was more like an NVIP, but he ate the free food anyway.