ASPEN, CO – Fresh snow blankets the trails and anticipation builds for the annual festival of cross country skiing in the Roaring Fork Valley, The Aspen Nordic Festival featuring the Owl Creek Chase. Set for Feb. 11-12, the Aspen Nordic Festival features several events for aspiring Olympians as well as Colorado citizen skiers, but it’s Sunday’s grueling 21km freestyle event, the Owl Creek Chase, that is the highlight of the weekend.
“The Owl Creek Chase is one of the toughest races in the world.” said race announcer Mike Trecker. “But it’s also one of the most fun; it’s a true cross country race that starts in Snowmass and finishes in Aspen. The scenery is visually stunning and the flow of the race is enhanced by the challenges of the tough climbs and speedy downhills. There are usually packs of skiers racing together and the finish at the AVSC is one of the best in the sport, offering many prime viewing spots for spectators.”
Several new features highlight this year’s Aspen Nordic Festival, the first of which is a new classic sprint qualifier early on Saturday morning.
“This year’s festival will be the first on FIS sanctioned and standardized trails at the AVSC courses.” Trecker explained. “Holding one additional points race opportunity was something the national governing body wanted to add to the program since Sunday’s Owl Creek Chase is not FIS sanctioned. Rather than holding an additional event on a separate day, the organizers and the USSA decided to hold a short, sprint time trial on Saturday in addition to the standard 5/10k classic races.”
Sunday’s Owl Creek Chase will once again be a wave start and this year’s race will be the first edition to offer two separate wave starts for the citizen skiers. Wave 1 which starts at 11am will be the SuperTour and Elite Citizen Men’s wave. Skiers in this wave will have a FIS or USSA license and compete for USSA points and cash prizes but will also allow the fastest citizen men up to 50 racers total. Skiers in this wave need to be able to finish in 1:15 or less and seeding will be based on FIS/USSA points for the SuperTour racers and previous results for citizen racers. Wave 2 starts at 11:05am and will be the Women’s version of Wave 1. The recommended finish time for Wave 2 is 1:25 or better.
“The big college teams are not coming to Aspen this year due to a conflict in the schedule.” said Trecker “We wanted to encourage some of Colorado’s fastest citizen skiers to jump into the elite Waves 1 and 2 to make the competition a little deeper in the front and to give additional room for the citizen skiers back in waves 3 and 4. We’ve had some people wish there was more room in the start area and the hope is that these new waves will help with that.”
Wave 3 starts at 11:10 and will be open to citizen men and women who can finish in under 1:40 and who tend to be more competitive and aggressive in their skiing. Thus, Wave 3 is called “Competitive Citizens” and will be limited to a maximum of 75 skiers. Wave 4 starts at 11:15 and is dubbed “Recreational Citizens”.
Early Owl Creek Chase registration is now available for $40 through Jan. 21 with standard $50 registration closing on Feb. 8. There is no race day registration.
2012 Aspen Nordic Festival Schedule of Events
Sat. Feb. 11, 9am – AVSC USSA SuperTour Classic Sprint Qualifier, Active USSA/FIS license holders only
Sat. Feb. 11, 11am – AVSC USSA SuperTour and Citizens 5/10k classic
Sun. Feb. 12, 11am – Aspen Parks and Recreation Owl Creek Chase, USSA SuperTour and Citizens 21km freestyle
www.owlcreekchase.com for more information on events and registration