Competing for a cause

Mavericks Superpipe Challenge helps educate about breast cancer

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— The link between active snowboarders and breast cancer seems to be an unlikely one -- and the founders of Boarding for Breast Cancer aspire to make it that way.

The organization, co-founded by snowboarder Shannon Dunn-Downing, a former Steamboat Springs resident and Olympic bronze medalist, is a nonprofit foundation that educates youth about breast cancer in an effort to help them either prevent the onset of the disease or at least detect it in its early stages.

Until Saturday's Mavericks Superpipe Challenge, Boarding for Breast Cancer, or B4BC, had not been associated with any event in Colorado other than ESPN's X Games that were staged in Aspen.

Dunn-Downing and Riley Polumbus, public relations coordinator at the Steamboat Ski Area, wanted that to change.

Over lunch last summer, Polumbus and Dunn-Downing brainstormed ways to get B4BC involved with some event staged at Steamboat.

Saturday's second annual Team Venom Mavericks Superpipe Challenge was the winner.

Both B4BC and Steamboat Springs' Breast Cancer Awareness Project will receive a portion of the $35 competition entry fee.

"Steamboat not only has a long tradition of producing world-class snow sport athletes, it also has an extensive history of giving back to the community," Dunn-Downing said. "This makes Steamboat the perfect venue."

It also made Mavericks, at 650 feet, the perfect pipe.

Seventy-three athletes ranging in age from 9 to 30 competed for $8,000 in cash and $5,000 in merchandise Saturday at the Mavericks Superpipe Challenge.

The divisions included: Men's Snowboarding (Open and 15 and under), Women's Snowboarding (Open and 15 and under), Men's Skiing (Open and 15 and under) and Women's Skiing (Open and 15 and under).

Tori Carrigan-Koski, 16, of Steamboat took first in the women's open snowboarding division. Gina Gmeiner, 18, also of Steamboat took first in the women's open skiing division. Augusta Nelson, 15, of Steamboat won the girls' 15 and under snowboarding division.

Aaron Woodard, 18, of Boyne City, Mich., took first in the men's open snowboarding division. Aaryn Briggs, 22, of Steamboat and Greg Tuffelmire, 26, of Frisco won the men's open skiing division.

Cody Kurowski, 14, of Steamboat won the men's 15 and under snowboarding division. John Sprigg, 14, of Vail took first in the men's 15 and under skiing division.

Of the 73 competitors, 42 were from Steamboat, including members of the Mavericks Freeride Team.

This eight-person team represents the Steamboat Ski Area in its continuing efforts to promote the growing sport of freeriding.

"There's a tremendous culture," Polumbus said. "We've chosen local athletes with talent in the pipe."

Team members Spencer Tamblyn and Lex Koski said they actively work to market Steamboat as a premiere place to freeride and freeski.

Improvements to the terrain park and the creation of Mavericks, the longest pipe in North America, have given them additional credibility.

And the growing popularity of Saturday's competition is a reflection of how well the word is spreading.

Polumbus sees the event to grow more, and B4BC Executive Director Justine Chiara said she would like to continue to be associated with the Mavericks Superpipe Challenge.

Chiara and the Boarding for Breast Cancer foundation aspire to reach young audiences like the ones gathered around or competing on the pipe Saturday.

The average age of competitors in Saturday's challenge was 19.3 years.

Monica Steward, a prominent figure in snowboarding and a friend of Dunn-Downing and Chiara, was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 26.

She died three years later.

But breast cancer isn't a women-only disease.

Educating male and female snowboarders, surfers, skateboarders and spectators is important to B4BC, Chiara said.

"We have made such a tremendous impact," she said.

"As much as breast cancer might solely be seen as a women's thing, it affects everyone."

She just hopes the time Boarding for Breast Cancer representatives spend handing out information on breast cancer is as close to the disease as anyone -- young or old -- ever gets.

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