Outside in Aspen, the participatory adventure festival, will not take place this year in what organizers are calling a hiatus.
Produced by Outside magazine and the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, the unique event put paying guests on local trails, roads, and rivers next to elite, professional athletes and Outside editors. It ran over a weekend in early June for three years, beginning in 2010.
“It grew year over year but it didn’t get to where the investment worked for the chamber and for Outside,” said Maureen Poschman of Promo Communications, who handled public relations for the event. “The numbers weren’t where we wanted them to be after three years.”
She said roughly 100 people paid to take part in the event’s activities last year, including climbing, biking, running, boating and fishing. It also included panel discussions, parties, and a “base camp” of product display tents and sponsor exhibits at Gondola Plaza.
The partnership between Outside and local tourism officials remains strong, said Poschman. The magazine and the chamber are retooling the event, in the hopes of bringing it back to Aspen in 2014.
The focus, format and time of year it occurs are likely to change if Outside in Aspen returns, said Poschman. Taking place in early June on the tail end of off-season, the startup event struggled against Aspen vacation patterns and scheduling around other special events.
A race that had been branded the Outside in Aspen Triathlon for the last three years is being renamed the Aspen Triathlon/Duathlon, and will run Aug. 3 instead of in June. Racers swim at the Aspen Recreation Center, then bike to the Maroon Bells and back, then run around the Aspen Golf Club. The duathlon does the same course with a run-bike-run or swim-bike combination.
With five full-page advertisements in the magazine per year and coverage of the festival online, the event in its three years met some primary goals of the chamber, including spreading the word on local outdoor activities to Outside’s demographic and marketing Aspen as an outdoor adventure destination.
“[Aspen] got incredible value for it,” Poschman said. “The exposure for Aspen was incredible but it wasn’t selling as much as we wanted it to.”
Outside in Aspen did make international gossip headlines in 2011, when cyclist Tyler Hamilton and Lance Armstrong had an alleged public confrontation at Cache Cache. Outside had brought Hamilton to town for a road biking ride-along event, shortly after he accused former teammate Armstrong of abusing performance enhancing drugs. Armstrong, a part-time Aspenite, denied using drugs at the time.
In March of last year, ACRA board member John Olson suggested they discontinue the event because it was an insult to Armstrong, who has since admitted drug use and been stripped of his cycling titles.
The event was launched out of the city of Aspen’s 2010 “Mining for Ideas” initiative, which fed $150,000 of general-fund money into special events.
The city gave $20,000 to launch the event, and ACRA continued to support it with taxpayer funds in its second two years.
At a December City Council meeting, ACRA Vice President of Sales and Marketing Julia Theisen said the chamber was not going to support the event with funds any longer and was encouraging Outside to find other sponsors.
Ryan Krogh, Outside’s research editor, who served as a point person among writers for the magazine during the event in Aspen, said he was disappointed it isn’t happening this year, but directed questions about it to the magazine’s marketing coordinator Christine Salem. She did not return a phone message and email seeking comment.