Aspen Elementary students take over Ajax |

Aspen Elementary students take over Ajax

Katie Redding
Aspen, CO Colorado
Aspen Times | Julie WilleAspen Elementary School teacher Mimi Hauenstein, left, rides a chairlift up Aspen Mountain on Monday with students Keegan Smiddy, Sassy Giesbert and Julia Haugan. An anonymous donor paid for the elementary school to have the ski area to itself for the day, following Aspen Mountain's closure for the season on Sunday.

ASPEN, Colorado ” Thanks to an anonymous donor, Aspen Elementary School students and staff had Aspen Mountain all to themselves Monday.

Despite Sunday’s official closing, an unusually short clientele packed the Sundeck, enjoyed a free lunch, and skied the powder off the mountain from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. One lucky parent got to accompany each student.

“It’s a winter wonderland with 500 of your best friends,” said third-grade student Spencer Shaw.

And despite the logistics of having 520 students in kindergarten through fourth grade on the ski hill, the day went off “really well,” according to teacher Amy Coyle.

The group needed few special accommodations said Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle, though the Skico did bring up what he called a “skitch” ” a snowmobile that could tow those students who had never rode on a lift.

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“I heard from some of the staff that these kids are better at loading the lifts than our regular customers,” said Hanle.

Skico donated the day to the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, so the nonprofit could auction it off as a fundraiser, according to Hanle. The skiing club ” which offers local students everything from beginning lessons to competitive teams ” depends on such donations for $1 million of its $3 million budget each year, said Alan Cole, marketing manager.

A donor who gave only the name Steel Partners Foundation purchased the ski day before it even went to auction, according to Cole.

It’s the third time that donor has purchased the benefit ski day, said Cole. The last two years, he donated it to his son’s class, but this year decided to pay an additional sum to open the mountain to the entire elementary school.

“He pretty much had it locked down,” Cole said.

To make sure the day was a true holiday, even parents were told to leave their cell phones off, except in cases of emergency, according to Principal Doreen Goldyn.

“Everyone was so happy. There was not one kid without a smile on his face,” said Lisa Gill, mother to a third-grade student. “I can’t thank [the donor] enough.”

“My favorite part was just the bumps,” said kindergarten student Alexander Quijano. “Because I got past them.”

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