Audi Ajax Cup returns to Aspen Mountain for head-to-head racing and AVSC fundraising
It’s a cloudy, not-too-busy Wednesday morning on the Little Nell Run at Aspen Mountain as skiers and snowboarders slide past an empty race course covered in a fresh inch of snow.
But by Friday, the course will be buzzing with energy for the Audi Ajax Cup, a head-to-head ski race and all-day celebration that raises money for the nonprofit Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club.
Amateurs and aspiring pro ski racers will team up with local legends and Olympians for the annual event, which returns to its home at Aspen Mountain this year after a brief stint at Aspen Highlands.
Of the 16 current and former professional skiers on this year’s team rosters, 10 are winter Olympians and 7 are AVSC alumni.
Each team is led by one pro from a list that includes accomplished downhillers like Daron Rahlves and Bode Miller and podium-topping freestylers like AVSC alumni Alex Ferreira and Hanna Faulhaber.
AVSC’s marketing and communications director Xanthe Demas said the event is a “full circle” moment that demonstrates AVSC’s commitment to “access and excellence.”
“It just really goes to show that this program impacts people in all sorts of different ways, but in a lot of cases, allows them to ski professionally, which is just the coolest thing, and what a lot of kids dream of in this valley,” Demas said in an interview on the Silver Queen Gondola on Wednesday.
VIP tickets for the Ajax Cup and all the apres glory are $500, but spectators can also catch a glimpse of the race for free from the slopes.
The funds raised support operations at the ski and snowboard club, which provides year-round recreational programming and competitive training for youth in the Roaring Fork Valley.
One in three club athletes receives financial aid, and the organization aims to subsidize program costs across the board.
“Even if you're not receiving financial aid directly, you're still benefiting from our programs being subsidized and being affordable and being something that kids can participate in,” Demas said.
Head-to-head racing will take place on the Little Nell run at Ajax from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday. An apres-ski celebration for ticket holders will follow at Chica Aspen at the base of the mountain.