24 Hours of Sunlight was exciting, it was cool, it promoted a relatively unknown ski resort with classic organic marketing, it tested uphill skiers like nothing else — the name was even a double pun (see below). But that wasn’t enough. According to the Aspen Daily News:
“Organizers changed the format because of a conflict at the base area with hotel rooms. The weekend of Feb. 28 was the only weekend it made sense to have the race so as not to conflict with other endurance races, but it is also when Sunlight is playing host to one of its biggest groups of the season, according to sales and marketing manager Dylan Lewis. It made sense to shorten the race period so contestants wouldn’t need a hotel room at the base, as most contestants did in the 24-hour race.”
I’m suspecting this is just spin, and the fact is that since race producer Real Time Marketing backed out, the money and effort to produce a 24 hour race was just too daunting for ski area staff. Ski Sunlight happened to have a large group of skiers coming at the same time, so claiming that as the cause sounds better than admitting they don’t have the cajones to produce the event — which was well attended and got tiny but good quality ski area some national PR every year. What’s more, last year we couldn’t get a room during the race, they were all booked!
|Greg Hill and Brian Johnson (1st and 3rd men’s solo) on the podium after the 2007 race. Second placer Eric Sullivan was at the hospital and finished one lap behind Greg! Next year, Eric won with a new record vertical of 34 laps and 51,068 feet. The next year Brian gave Eric a run for his money, but it was Brian’s turn to go to the hospital. Tough race, but that’s the point of this sort of thing.|
Oh well, it was a legend while it lasted. Perhaps another resort can pick up the torch. And to be fair, a 12 hour race will indeed be easier to go solo in. But the operative word is “easier.” It’s not supposed to be easy. It’s supposed to be hard. That’s the point.
About the double pun: First, since the race went all night calling it 24 Hours of Sunlight was a joke on that, but more, Aspen used to have a nationally promoted hoopla event known as 24 Hours of Aspen, which involved riding the gondola and skiing down the mountain as many times as possible in 24 hours. The Aspen event was excellent (and won by local Chris Davenport one year) as well, but not near as grassroots as Sunlight, so it was fun for the little resort to make a joke on that as well — and require all the racers to hike up instead of ride the lift, he he he.
(And, I’m willing to give the 12 hour format a chance so we’ll be there if we’re in town. If nothing else, this can still be considered as a fairly challenging randonnee style race because it will continue to involve both uphill and downhill. But man, we’re bummed out about the 24 hour format going away. It was just so incredible…)
To get an idea of the spirit of this thing and what we’ll be losing, check out our extensive coverage over the past five years or so.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.