Bone-crushing tackles come as no surprise in a football game played without protective gear, and such action is at the black-and-blue heart of Aspen's Ruggerfest 2003. The 36-year-old demolition derby, held every September in the Rockies, features the toughest rugby teams from across the country. The gathering's a hit with spectators, too: More than 3,000 people are expected to watch forty-plus teams compete over the course of the free four-day festival. Ruggerfest coordinator Doug Cigliana, of the sponsoring Gentlemen of Aspen, says the top teams in USA Rugby are invited to the contest -- but will any of them be able to snatch the championship title from the Gents, who have held it since 1997?
And what about the ladies? The phrase "throw like a girl" takes on a new meaning in women's rugby, the sport's fastest-growing division. "It fills the niche for a very competitive physical sport for women," says Cigliana. Last year's champions, the women of the Twin Cities Amazon, will return to defend their turf.
Fans of old-timers can watch today at Aspen's Wagner Park as the "Over 45" gang plays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (and buys up all the Aspercreme in town at 5:30). Tomorrow, the "Over 35" group gets into it from 8 to 5 at Wagner and Rio Grande Parks. The men's and women's club matches take place from 8 to 5 on Saturday, and club finals will wrap things up on Sunday. For details, visit www.aspenrugby.com. -- Denesha Tellis
Volunteers step up to help public lands
National Public Lands Day, which calls for volunteers to spend a day working to improve and restore trails, campgrounds and natural habitats, officially falls on September 20 this year. But related events across Colorado and the nation take place over a two-week period, during which time the call will be answered by up to 80,000 helping hands. If you'd like to be among them, today's the day: Volunteers organized locally by Toyota, a national sponsor of the event, will converge this morning in Pike National Forest to participate in a U.S. Forest Service rehabilitation project west of Deckers, in the Hayman burn area. Additional rehab adventures farther afield will be available in the coming days, including work at the new Canyons of the Ancients National Monument archaeological site in the Four Corners area and the annual Shelf Road NPLD Celebration near Cañon City. For a complete list of details and contact numbers, call 1-800-865-8337 or go to www.npld.com. -- Susan Froyd