The weekend-long participatory adventure festival, Outside in Aspen, returns to town Friday for its third year.
The burgeoning event has gained steam through the usual avenues, like advertising in the monthly magazine, but it also got an unexpected boost from an unplanned event last year.
The Outside in Aspen summit grabbed international gossip headlines, as former cycling teammates Lance Armstrong and Tyler Hamilton allegedly had a confrontation at Cache Cache. Hamilton had recently publicly accused Armstrong of using performance-enhancing drugs while they rode together on the World Cup tour.
While the alleged incident may have been embarrassing for the former teammates, it also exposed the world to the existence of Outside in Aspen, as the magazine itself broke the story online.
“I certainly think it raised the Outside in Aspen brand awareness,” said Ryan Krogh, Outside’s research editor. “I think it was a happy coincidence that it happened that weekend and we were there to blog about it.”
Hamilton isn’t returning this year. But Krogh said that was because the organizers dropped the road bike event Hamilton had led for the last two years, not directly due to last year’s mini-scandal. Armstrong did not participate in previous festivals and isn’t scheduled for any appearances this year.
Krogh said the true draw of the event is its unique approach of putting paying guests on the trail, road, or water next to elite, professional athletes and Outside editors. That sets it apart from spectator events like the winter and summer X Games, or Teva Games. This year’s slate of events includes a triathlon with professionals Jesse Thomas, kayaking with Willie Kern, and rock-climbing with Jake Norton.
“Everyone goes out in the day and has a great adventure, and then comes back and has a couple drinks and talks about it,” Krogh said.
Sunday’s lineup includes a symposium titled “Adventure Saves the World,” a panel discussion among athletes about how they’ve promoted social activism and philanthropy through their sports and mountaineering. That panel includes locals Chris Klug, the Olympic snowboarding medalist and organ donation champion, and Chris Davenport, the author and mountaineer. Klug and Davenport also are leading groups to go stand-up paddle boarding and hike Castle Peak.
They’re among a stable of Aspen athletes and characters that have been featured in the magazine in recent years. Others that the magazine has spotlighted since Outside in Aspen started coming to town include Christy Mahon, Jennifer Figge, and Mike and Roger Marolt.
“There’s few towns like Aspen that have such a concentration of high-caliber athletes in one area,” Krogh said. “What it comes down to is that Aspen is such a great place to live if you’re into those activities, so it’s natural we cover a lot of athletes from there.”
As editors have spent more time in Aspen, chasing stories and planning the annual summit here, they’ve found yet more reasons to highlight locals.
“You’ll be there for one story and all of a sudden somebody’s talking about their buddy who just skied Denali,” Krogh laughed. “And the next thing you know you’re doing that.”
For a full list of events, go to outsideinaspen.com.