Lunar Cup Gives Revelers a Taste of Ski Season All Over Again
by J James McTigue
Jul 21, 2011 | 1736 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SAN MIGUEL COUNTY – “Who else can say they’re doing this today?” Will from Alabama asked at the top of The Lunar Cup on Saturday morning.

I think I can safely answer, “No one.”

Will was referring to the Lunar Cup, a summer, ski race, exhibition and party that takes place above Savage Basin, just below Imogene Pass at 13, 114 feet, on a steep, snow-covered scree- field.

The event goes something like this: Roby Peabody (who prefers Roby) and his Council pick a weekend some time toward the end of June, or beginning of July, to hold the event.

“We have an idea – kind of – when we want to do it, but we have to be free form,” he said. We have to wait for when they clear the pass [Tomboy]. Mother Nature has a huge role in when we do it.”

Once the date is set, those in the know, find out about it. Roby and friends head up to Savage, bringing the gear which includes a tent, full sound system, a few stop watches, the gates and a multitude of beverages.

The hard-core Lunar Cuppers drive the eight miles up Tomboy Road to celebrate and camp the night before. The rest join Saturday morning to register for the race that they threaten will start at 9 a.m. Don’t worry, it won’t.

Registration consists of scrawling your team’s name on a yellow legal pad and signing a waiver to ensure nobody is responsible or liable for anything. The fee is $25 a person.

“Remind everybody the karma police are watching,” Herb Manning, former-event organizer and current volunteer said Monday after the Cup. “You need to pay. We are working on the honor system here; a lot of people didn’t have money up there.”

Around 9-ish, the colorful crowd and participants gather. Most are dressed like they belong in a Vegas show or just came from the Gay Pride Parade in San Francisco. And the folly begins.

Folks hike above the start of the racecourse to a high ridge separating Savage Basin from Ingram Basin. Some hop the cornice to ski the steeper face, others shimmy around it. Many take a practice run in the gates. The confidence of a few turns is reassuring before standing in the start gate, looking down at a fairly rowdy pitch covered by dirty, sun-affected snow reminiscent of the moon’s surface.

Next, it’s race time. Participants pair off in friendly rivals, and race down through the dual giant slalom, that may include traverses, ruts or holes. As a sideshow, young freeriders keep the day lively throwing flips and spins off a homemade kicker. Festively dressed folks dance, commentate, gasp and cheer at everything going on in front of them.

As the morning fades so does all inhibition, and nudity has seemingly become as much a part of Lunar Cup as skiing – or costumes and cold beer, for that matter.

At this year’s event, “a naked back flip, one-ski landing” was a highlight according to Roby. For his efforts, the new school skier was awarded “the style trophy.” The second highlight was “the lunar eclipse,” which Roby described as “when everyone at the start gate moons everyone watching,” then added, “Where were you?”

I’m not sure how I missed that.

Although the event is fun and full of lunacy, there still is some semblance of a ski race at its core, and at the end of the day, times are tallied and winners announced.

The appropriately named “New School Versus Old School” won the alpine division with rookie new schooler Gregory Hope, and veteran old-schoolers Zach Templin, Matt Kitzmich and the somewhere in-between Page McCargo. The win is a three-peat for Templin and Kizmich.

Jesse Swing, representing ParaDocs, clocked the fastest run for the men and McCargo for the women.

Taking top honors in the snowboard division were Simon Collins, Gabe Wright, Rusty Scott and Jaynee Kronk, whose team name was “The Same Name as Last Year.”

The Lunar Cup has been around on and off since the early 70s. It has a long and sordid history, and has endured a multitude of metamorphoses and resurrections. According to J. Michael Brown, event organizer in the ‘early 70s, 80s and again in the late 90s, the first Lunar Cup happened in 1972, put on by former US ski team member, Telluride Ski School Instructor and character extraordinaire Duncan Coleman.

“The first one was at the St. Bernard Monastery, the nickname of a mining claim Coleman owned outside of Silverton,” Brown said. “He penned the name Lunar Cup because it was during the summer solstice or full moon.”

From 1973-1975, Brown ran the event in Savage Basin, before leaving town (and then returning some years later). A few years after, former Paragon Sports owner Ned Mulford gave it life again.

“In the late 70s it was the real deal,” Brown said. “It was a Pro-Am ski race and one year it was an actual stop on the Colorado Pro Tour. They had dual automatic start gates. It was all the top racers. It was pretty triply; they had a big cash price and the whole nine yards.”

Between Brown and Manning’s chronologies, it seems the Lunar Cup came and went through the 80s and early 90s, then went dormant for six years in the mid-90s.

“Ned and his posse got it back going in 89/90,” Brown said. “He was a real stickler for ski racing and it went that way 'til about 94 until he disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle,” he joked of Mulford’s move from Telluride.

Brown recalls bringing it back in the late 90s, Manning and Chris White taking it over around 1998 and then turning it over to Roby around 2005. All parties agreed that the chronology, like the more recent details of the event, were a little fuzzy

“Everyone started talking of the legends of The Lunar Cup, we thought we’d bring it back,” Manning recalled when he became involved. “We sort of changed the event, we wanted to keep it true to tradition, but with a non-serious, race-type slant – more of a freak fest.”

“Watching the next generation embrace the whole thing, as they’re doing now, is the coolest thing,” Brown commented. “to see that it is going from one generation to the next and it’s very locally inspired.”

So, these days, what do get if you win the Lunar Cup? Some say you win bragging rights, but Lunar folks aren’t the type to brag, or really remember much from year to year, so what do you really get – besides a heck of a good time?

Just what Will from Alabama said – the assurance that you are the only ones ski racing in costume at 12,000 feet on a summer day in July.
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