Skiers cash in on Scholarship Day

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— It's almost a weekly occurrence, at least in the winter, for the members of the Belz family.

Normally, by the time Thursday rolls around, parents Shirley and John are busy helping at least one of the family's three sons pack for a weekend road trip to a skiing event.

The boys, all three of them, are members of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's freestyle program. For the past several years, Logan, who is now 18, and Luke, who is 15, have been competitive in the Rocky Mountain Division at the regional level. Nick, who is 12 years old, is just about to jump up to that next level.

"It's a wonderful opportunity," Shirley says of the Winter Sports Club.

It's also a very costly one for most families here in Steamboat Springs. An average weekend of skiing for the Belz family is about $500, which includes lodging, food, entry fees and lift tickets. That's if the competition is in Colorado.

Multiply that amount by at least five events each winter and the total is enough to set most family budgets back. Then, there are also coaching fees and equipment costs.

Over the course of a year, the cost to be a competitive member in the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club can easily exceed $5,500.

Shirley admits that without the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's Scholarship Day meeting, the costs of skiing would be much more difficult.

"Every year we hand out scholarships to 40 or 50 families here in Steamboat Springs," said Rick DeVos, the Winter Sports Club's executive director. "The amount of the scholarship varies from family to family based on need."

Most of the funds, roughly $15,000 to $20,000, comes from the Steamboat Ski Area's Scholarship Day. Another $5,000 to $6,000 is raised through the Moose is Loose Golf tournament, which is held in September.

"We owe them a big thank you," DeVos said of the Steamboat Ski Area. "We couldn't do this (hand out the scholarships) without Scholarship Day."

The money from those $15 opening day tickets is donated to the Winter Sports Club each year. A committee then decides which families will receive scholarships and how much they will receive based on need. The families can then use the money to help defray coaching fees, travel and competition expenses.

Shirley said the scholarships have helped their family stay in the freestyle program, and skiing has become a very positive influence for Logan, Luke and Nick.

"I'm sure we would have found a way to do it without the scholarships," Shirley said. "But, we would have been forced to cut corners and make some tough choices along (the) way."

Shirley said it's kind of surprising how the cost of competitive skiing can ambush parents in Steamboat Springs.

She said when her children were younger, the cost to take part in the programs was reasonable. As her children grew, however, so did the cost of skiing.

Soon, the competitions were not just at Howelsen Hill or Mount Werner, but also in places like Winter Park, Vail and Breckenridge, where the family needed a hotel room. The cost of equipment and coaching also tends to increase as children grow older.

Shirley said the scholarships were a great way to lessen the cost of the sport without limiting her children's opportunities at the Winter Sports Club.

"It's a fantastic program for the kids," she said. "We are just thankful for the scholarship program. It has been a big help for our family and many others here in Steamboat Springs."

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