Dig out your skis, snowpants

Opening day, Winter Sports Club benefit less than a week away

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The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and the Steamboat Ski Area have built a relationship like no other in the country.

Since the 1991-92 ski season, more than $430,000 in lift-ticket sales from opening day has been given to the Winter Sports Club's scholarship fund, which enables area athletes to participate in the popular ski and snowboard club.

Scholarship Day celebrates its 15th anniversary Wednesday, when the lifts are fired up for the start of the 2005-06 ski season.

"This is the most unique situation I'm aware of in the ski industry," Winter Sports Club executive director Rick DeVos said. "They are donating their entire day to the youth and families of this community."

Passes are not accepted on Scholarship Day. Instead, people will need to purchase a $15 lift ticket good for Wednesday only.

"The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club has played an integral role in the development of young athletes by providing the support they need in order to achieve their Olympic dreams," said Chris Diamond, president of Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. "I encourage everyone to come out and make a few runs to support a very worthwhile organization."

The ski area was reporting a 21-inch base at mid-mountain Friday morning, and the ski area had received 6 inches of new snow at mid-mountain in the past 48 hours. Doug Allen, vice president of mountain operations, said he would have a better idea of which runs would be open for Scholarship Day on Monday.

"The resort mountain crews have done a tremendous job working nearly around the clock to take advantage of the great weather conditions," he said.

The Winter Sports Club was named the 2003-04 United States Ski and Snowboard Association's Club of the Year. Its snowboard program was the 2004 Snowboard Program of the Year. For the past 93 years, the Winter Sports Club has been providing opportunities for athletes to compete and achieve personal goals through winter sports.

The Winter Sports Club's scholarship program assists families with the cost of program fees, DeVos said. Funds raised from Scholarship Day go into that account.

"We then have a scholarship committee that reviews the applications and determines, based on specific criteria, who gets how much support," DeVos said. "We have families here with four or five kids in the club."

In addition to Scholarship Day, the ski area supports the Winter Sports Club in a variety of other ways.

"They supply training and events sites, all of the maintenance and preparation for all of that," DeVos said. "On top of that, they provide close to 100 season passes for staff.

"Every single kid in the club who is skiing on a season pass is, in a sense, (on scholarship) because the ski area gives the kids a special price if they go through the club."

In the past three years, the ski area has donated an average of $366,000 a year to the Winter Sports Club through its time and resources.

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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