Image credit: Griff Lacey

The endless parade of fine-dining restaurants and designer boutiques I’m prepared for. The labradoodle trotting down Aspen’s cobblestone streets dressed in a Moncler ski jacket doesn’t look out of place, either. And the sight of milky ski runs pouring down the face of Aspen Mountain matches exactly the picture in my mind. What I’m not expecting to find in this upmarket Colorado ski resort is a snow-blanketed rugby field.

Wagner Park occupies prime real estate opposite the Limelight Hotel in the centre of town (where housing goes for up to $US8000/$11,500 a sq foot). It’s the home ground of the Gentlemen of Aspen, perhaps the most unlikely – and the most unfathomably successful – rugby team in the US. How did it happen? I don’t have to look far to find the answer. Team captain Simon Dogbe works a few doors down from the Limelight Hotel where I’m staying, within drop-kicking distance of Wagner Park. The Englishman arrived in Aspen in 2001, in the Gentlemen’s heyday.

“It was incredible,” he says. “We were like the New York Yankees of rugby, full of big-name players and beating everyone. It’s hard to believe, in a way.”

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