Aspen-to-Vai ski trip will help prepare team for Greenland expedition | SummitDaily.com
Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

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Aspen-to-Vai ski trip will help prepare team for Greenland expedition

A group that will undertake a skiing expedition in Greenland in spring 2018 to build autism awareness is planning a training trip between Aspen and Vail this month.

The group, which has five members from the Roaring Fork Valley, plans to depart from Aspen on Jan. 22 on an eight-day journey spanning nearly 100 miles of High Country and an accumulated 17,000 vertical feet of climbing. Their goal is to ski as many as 11 hours per day and reach Vail by Jan. 29.

"Due to the short daylight hours, a significant percentage of travel will be by headlamp, mimicking the dark conditions the team will encounter in Greenland," according to an outline of the trip.

The group will be roughing it under tarps rather than sleeping in huts. All members will be hefting large packs and at least four skiers will haul 80-pound sleds loaded with food.

Ron Rash, a longtime Roaring Fork Valley resident and expedition co-lead, said the recent high avalanche danger in the Colorado mountains hasn't deterred the group.

"We're not in high-avalanche terrain," he said of the route they have selected. The group will follow routes between 10th Mountain Division huts, though they aren't staying in the facilities, he said. While there are some areas where caution is needed, he said they will avoid steep slopes.

Several of the expedition members belong to Mountain Rescue Aspen, so they have extensive backcountry experience.

The group also trained in January 2016 on an outdoor trip to Yellowstone National Park. Temperatures dropped as low as negative 40 degrees.

"We were making sure our winter camping skills were up to par," Rash said. The trip between Aspen and Vail will sharpen skills for multi-day travel, he said.

Rash is deputy executive director and adventures manager of Ascendigo Autism Services of Carbondale. It provides a camp for autistic teens featuring extreme sports. Ascendigo is a main sponsor of Expedition Autism: Greenland.

Other expedition members include Blake Gordon of Carbondale and Doug Paley, Blake Robinson and John Young of Aspen.

Gordon is a journalist, photographer and videographer as well as an extensive outdoorsman.

Paley is a past president of Mountain Rescue Aspen and its training director as well as an entrepreneur.

Young is a professional mountain guide for Aspen Alpine Guides and a ski pro with Aspen Skiing Co. Robinson also is a ski pro.

Frequent Aspen visitor Heather Bisiker of Canada also is part of the expedition.

Two autistic members who are immersed in advocacy issues also are part of the team. Paul Nussbaum is expedition co-lead. Christian Damian joined the expedition after meeting Nussbaum. She is a former firefighter in California and avid sportsperson who has represented what female autistics and older athletes can accomplish.

Valerie Paradiz will be in a support role for the group as base-camp manager and writer when it goes to Greenland.

The group initially planned to undertake the Expedition Autism: Greenland project this spring, but was forced to delay to raise more money, Rash said. The Greenland trip will be a 30-day, 400-mile trek on skis. The objective is to promote inclusion of people with autism in sports.

To learn more about Expedition Autism: Greenland or to contribute, contact Rash at ron@ascendigo.org or (970) 379-8585.

scondon@aspentimes.com