Steamboat Springs The blast of early snow that allowed the Steamboat Ski Area to open five days early Nov. 22 also put a positive jolt in the scholarship fund of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.
Ski Area President Chris Diamond confirmed Wednesday that Scholarship Day raised a record $49,800. The money will be used to help defray the expenses of some of Steamboat Springs' blossoming competitive skiers and snowboarders.
"This year's record Scholarship Day amount is a statement by the local community that skiing and riding matter to this valley," Diamond said. "Scholarship Day has played an integral part in the ski area's commitment to the Winter Sports Club, especially to those children in the Yampa Valley who have the desire to ski and ride but don't have the financial wherewithal."
The ski area offers $15 lift tickets on opening day each November and turns the proceeds over to the club. The proceeds are always higher when abundant early snow and cold temperatures allow ski area managers to provide top-to-bottom skiing as they did this year.
The new record for Scholarship Day proceeds eclipses last year's standard of more than $35,000. The program has raised an average of $27,000 per year, or more than $324,000, over the past 12 years.
Winter Sports Club Executive Director Rick DeVos said his organization's scholarship program reaches almost 50 families, and in some cases, those families have more than one youngster enrolled. He likes to tell the story of one father who has four children in the club and uses a computer spreadsheet to track their expenses. But scholarships also go to families whose fees are far more modest.
"You won't find another resort in Colorado that gives back as much to the community as the Steamboat Ski Area has committed over the past decade," DeVos said. "The club could not operate without the continued support of the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp."
Athletes in their teens who are knocking on the door of the U.S. Ski Team can total several thousands of dollars in expenses over the course of the winter. But DeVos said those athletes are not necessarily typical of scholarship recipients. Often, scholarships go to 8-year-olds just getting an introduction to snow sports.
"It could be a little girl in the Skeeter Werner League whose fees total $325 and we would cover $275 of that amount," DeVos said. "It goes back to our mission statement, which is to ensure that every youngster in the Yampa Valley can afford to ski or ride."
A scholarship athlete could also be a young teen enrolled in the Howelsen Howlers, skiing and riding with a coach once a week on Saturday for a seasonal fee of $360. Those youngsters do not travel to competitions, DeVos said, but are eligible for support from the club.
Although the club celebrates its champion skiers, it's a tiny percentage of club members who get to hang a flag with their name on it in Olympian Hall. Instead, the typical Winter Sports Club athlete takes away experiences that will help him or her in higher education, DeVos said.
"It's more about acquiring life skills," DeVos said. "That has to be more important to us."
DeVos said the Ski Corp.'s support for the club doesn't end with Scholarship Day. It hosts the annual Ski Ball, which raised a record $60,000 this season. In addition to hosting a number of competitions on its slopes every year, the resort supplies lift tickets, season passes, early on-snow training and race crew support.