“It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”
~ Sir Edmund Hillary
It was a balmy 6 degrees at 6AM when we arrived at Snowmass Base Village this past Fat Tuesday, February 25, 2020, for the 28th anniversary of MOA (Mother of All Ascensions Uphill Race). Originally, MOA wasn’t a fund raiser, but a kick-off to Mardi Gras Day. Obviously, this year’s climate was a far cry from the feverish temperatures New Orleans can bring during festival season!
One beauty of the ski resort spirit is the fusion of “get busy living or get busy dying” hedonism and letting your “freak flag fly,” while still celebrating the great outdoors, exercise, and pushing one’s self mentally and physically beyond our comfort zones.
The last leg of the 2.5-mile hike was an ominous wall of relentless white (Coffee Pot Trail) that loomed ahead in my fogged sunglasses. I resented it at that moment, but once I crested the top, words cannot describe the euphoria and self-satisfaction that surfaced when conquering even a bear cub beast like that. Admittedly, I was one of the novice participants, who didn’t train, didn’t have proper equipment, nor appropriate, breathable clothing. Most of the participants looked like they were sponsored by REI, Patagonia or Kühl.
There were tutus, onesies, animal prints, wigs, wacky glasses, masks, themes, teams, beads, and one token Aspen pooch, Loki. Participants consisted of families, couples, singles, locals, transplants, visitors and more. Participants rocked their skins, snow shoes, split boards, Yaktrax, Micro-spikes, telegear and snowspikes.
Snowcats offered to transport snowboards and skis and other equipment to the summit for participants to ski or ride down after the climb.
This annual event is not only about celebration. Originally from Ontario, event coordinator, Andrew Bielecki, has taken over running this remarkable annual event for Patrick Long, Joel Gorton and Jeff Tippett, which they started in 1993.
Andrew has inspired a reason for donation too. In the wake of several tragic suicides in 2019 and historically in our valley of extreme demographic dichotomies, as well as, his own personal struggles he experienced years ago after several life challenging events, Andrew is showing his deep appreciation and gratitude for the Aspen Hope Center by donating $10.00 of every registration fee to the charitable organization in an effort to assist the public with affordable and accessible counseling, coping mechanisms, raise awareness of and reduce the stigma of mental illness. The organization provides information on psychiatric resources and medical facilities, educational classes, suicide awareness, group therapy and options for outpatient support so individuals can stay in the comfort of their own homes with loves ones, while still receiving care.
There has been recent documentation of an unfortunately high rate of depression and suicide in rural communities, especially in the winter months, so the timing of this event is perfect; merging the bacchanal of over indulgence prior to lent, with the great outdoors and fitness, all while funding a not-for-profit organization for mental illness.
Not dissimilar to the inherent survival skills of the Crescent City, where poverty meets affluence, glee meets despair, and art meets vandalism, and so many other contradictions, there is tragic beauty in our mountains; avalanches create ski trails and rock slides create hikes and caves, and abundance of wealth creates jobs, and space reaps loneliness. The valleys are troughs of rusticity worked with rough dry lands and hands, and the jagged mountain peaks are like tetrahedrons of excess and luxury soaked in sparkling glitter; but equally dangerous to navigate as the less high terrain.
The rewards of a finished climb are spiritual and material as well. There is an abundance of high-quality raffle prizes offered, including, but not limited to, outdoor sports, camping and survival gear, clothing and equipment, as well as gift certificates from dozens of local sponsors in the Valley. All prizes are raffled off and everybody wins something. This year, there were over $15,000 worth of merchandise give aways; not to mention the surprisingly generous bag of swag each entrant is given when they arrive.
MOA is a fantastic way to get people out and moving in the fresh air. The elevation gain was 2,073 feet to Gwyn’s High Alpine Restaurant sitting at 10,465’ for the awards ceremony which Andrew eloquently MC’d. Stay tuned for next year’s race itinerary!
Click Here For More Information on Registration
Click Here For More Information on the Aspen Hope Center
Click Here For Race Results
Click Here For List of Sponsors
Director of Marketing, Engel & Völkers Aspen | Roaring Fork Valley