Volunteers make big events possible in Steamboat

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This December, Ruth McClelland will take a few hours from her daily routine to lend a helping hand for the World Cup B Nordic Combined event and U.S. Freestyle Team Olympic Team Trials.

McClelland doesn't think her sacrifice is anything special, and she is quick to point out that there are plenty of people in Steamboat Springs who volunteer more time and, in her opinion, contribute a lot more than she does.

But Kris Seybold, volunteer coordinator for both events, is looking for more than a hundred people like Ruth McClelland as she prepares for the two major international ski competitions.

The first -- The Showdown at Steamboat World Cup B -- is barely more than a week away, but plenty of volunteer positions still need to be filled. The World Cup B event will be followed by the U.S. Freestyle Team's Olympic Trials on Dec. 30.

"We are going to need 100 people for these events," Seybold said.

Lining up volunteers for the two events has been one of the most challenging tasks Seybold has faced during her six years coordinating volunteers for local competitions. She said the number of phone calls from potential volunteers was low last week because of the Thanksgiving holiday, but she is confident the calls will increase as the first events of the winter draw closer.

"It always seems to come together," Seybold said.

By the end of the week, Seybold hopes to have several groups of volunteers working to make sure the facility at Howelsen Hill is ready to go, and by early next week, she hopes to have filled the other positions needed to make the World Cup B event a success.

At the same time, she is trying to line up volunteers to help set up and work the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team's Olympics-qualifying event.

Event organizers hope to en----tice volunteers with free lift tickets. Most volunteers can earn one lift ticket for every seven hours worked, and some of the more labor-intensive positions offer lift tickets for fewer hours of work. This year, volunteers can combine hours worked during both events for lift tickets.

"Our son was a ski racer, so I guess we just got used to working events," volunteer Patty Zehner said. "Personally, I just like the socializing. Volunteering is a great way to get involved with your community and meet people. I can't imagine living in this community and not volunteering."

Zehner and her husband, Tom, are part of a large group of volunteers that can be found at most events in Steamboat. She said volunteering also is a great way for new residents to become familiar with the community.

"I just enjoy helping out," McClelland said. "Steamboat has a tradition of hosting wonderful events, and this community has always come out to support those events."

This year, volunteering has required some extra planning on McClelland's part. She mailed her Christmas cards a little earlier than usual and decorated the house because she knew there wouldn't be time later this month. She said volunteering is different from work because it allows members of the community to feel like they are a part of these major skiing events.

"When the event comes to a close, there is a sense of accomplishment," McClelland said. "There is nothing better than having an athlete say thank you or knowing that an event is going to come back because nobody does a better job of putting on an event than Steamboat."

Seybold is looking for all kinds of volunteers for this month's events, but she especially needs skiers who can slip the mogul course for the Olympic trials.

Anyone interested in volunteering for any of the events should call 879-0882, ext. 209. Callers are asked to leave their names and contact numbers so someone can return their calls within a couple of days.

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