Lode of Fun

Erik Klanderud watches the MotherLode Volleyball Classic every year, and every year he's amazed by the level of play. The Classic's producer, Leon Fell, was his volleyball coach at Aspen High School back in the '80s, but Klanderud — who now works for the Aspen Chamber Resort Association — says he's not tall enough to play with the pros and Division I college players who come out for the tourney.

What the owners of Aspen's MotherLode restaurant started in 1972 as a small, invitation-only volleyball tournament on an otherwise lackluster Labor Day weekend has since grown to become the largest doubles volleyball competition in America and —according to MTV — the best volleyball party in the country.

"This year's event could be one of the most exciting we've had in a decade," says Fell. That's because tomorrow's Men's Masters play is going to be a who's-who of old beach volleyball players comprised of both ex-beach professionals and ex-Olympians. It should make for some excellent viewing, as will the Classic's more than 700 teams and seventeen divisions. And even for those who aren't typically volleyball fans, it's as close to a beach party as you're going to find in Colorado.

"It's a great thing to do after the CU-CSU game is over, and if for some strange reason it's raining in Denver, it can still be beautiful in the mountains," Fell says.

The 35th annual tournament, sponsored by Crocs, kicks off today with Women's Masters and Men's Seniors divisions and continues through Monday. Headquarters are at Koch Lumber Park, 1st Street and Cooper Avenue in Aspen, but games will be held at multiple sites. For information, schedules and maps, visit www.motherlodevolleyball.com.
Aug. 30-Sept. 3

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Jessica Centers