Heuga Snow Express raises $53,000

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— The numbers totaled after three ski races at Mount Werner on Sunday showed the 16th annual Snow Express for MS, a fund-raiser for the Heuga Center, raised just more than $53,000 in Steamboat Springs. The total is less than what was raised last year, but given the circumstances, officials say they are happy.

Thirteen teams of three people participated this year. On Sunday morning, skiers and snowboarders rode either in a marathon ski race or a poker run where teams searched for cards placed around the Steamboat Ski Area, hoping to find the best poker hand. All the teams participated in a giant slalom in the afternoon, some wearing outlandish costumes, such as dairy cow outfits.

Each team raised at least $1,000 to enter the ski races, which is meant more for fun than competition. The team that raises the most money before Sunday wins the event. All the funds go to support the Heuga Center, a nonprofit scientific research center dedicated to improving the lives of people with multiple sclerosis.

"It went great," said Stacey Kramer, local co-event director. "We didn't break any records but it was a safe race. Nobody got hurt and everybody had a smile on their face."

The $53,000 is about half of what was raised last year, which was a record-breaking event. Most of the 22 Snow Express for MS events around the country showed similar numbers this year.

"I think it was the economy and I think it was Sept. 11," Kramer said.

Many nonprofit organizations around the country reported problems with donations after the Sept. 11 attacks in addition to feeling the blow of the economy being in a recession.

"The big money teams (in Steamboat) from last year just weren't able to raise as much money," Kramer said.

Jason Denhart, event coordinator from the Heuga Center, said given the circumstances, this year's totals were spectacular.

"We would have felt a much harder hit if it wasn't for the hard work of Stacey and Jill," he said.

Event directors Jill Waldman and Kramer were pounding the pavement to help teams get their donations, Denhart said.

"We had a great day on the hill," he said. "It was a little chilly but everyone had a blast."

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