Racers pull away from the starting line near the top of the gondola Saturday morning in the Cody’s Challenge Randonee race at Steamboat Ski Area. The race served as a fundraiser for the Cody St. John Foundation, which provides scholarships to ski patrollers working on a career in medicine.

Corinne St. John/Courtesy

Racers pull away from the starting line near the top of the gondola Saturday morning in the Cody’s Challenge Randonee race at Steamboat Ski Area. The race served as a fundraiser for the Cody St. John Foundation, which provides scholarships to ski patrollers working on a career in medicine.

Challenging fundraiser honoring Cody St. John draws 75 skiers

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Liz Baldwin skis toward the finish of the Cody’s Challenge Randonee race Saturday at Steamboat Ski Area.

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Corinne St. John/Courtesy

Racers in Cody’s Challenge Randonee race make their way through the powder Saturday morning at Steamboat Ski Area.

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David Freshman, right, plays with his band Tuff Grooves on Saturday at Bear River Bar & Grill in front of a picture of Cody St. John at the base of Steamboat Ski Area. St. John was an organ donor and died after a car accident three years ago. Freshman, who received St. John's heart, was one of three of the recipients of St. John's organs on hand for Saturday's Cody's Challenge Randonee race.

— A week ago, the organizers of Cody’s Challenge Randonee Race were worried about how many racers might show up to the event, and what kind of conditions those who did would find.

“We didn’t even know what the course was going to be at that point,” event organizer Kyle Lawton said. “There were a few parts we thought we might have to tweak, and it would have been skiing down freeze.”

A stormy day dogged the second annual event again this year, but the 75 racers — nearly double last year’s turnout — couldn’t bring themselves to complain about getting the chance to make fresh tracks on one of the best powder days of the year in Steamboat Springs.

Cody’s Challenge, a fund­raiser for the Cody St. John Foundation, went off without a hitch.

“We’re definitely happy with how it worked out,” Lawton said.

Lawton remained the only men’s champion the event has had, winning for the second consecutive year. He finished in 1 hour, 37 minutes and 25 seconds. Gavin Malia was second at 1:38:46.05, and Scott Eden was third at 1:40:46.04.

Lawton’s wife, Amy Lawton, missed last year’s race because she was pregnant but had little trouble with the field Saturday and won the women’s division. She finished in 1:41:38.09. Laura Sehmert was second at 2:12:14.65, and Becky Kuhl was third in 2:16:17.31.

“It was beautiful, well-marked and a fun day to be outside and thinking about Cody,” Amy Lawton said.

Tough course

Last year’s course had to be modified the morning of the event when high winds forced the gondola to close, stranding racers 2,000 feet below the Thunderhead starting line. Wind again closed some lifts Saturday during the race, but the gondola remained open.

That didn’t mean things were easy for those who competed, however. The day’s powder was a happy surprise to skiers and snowboarders hitting up the late-season slopes, and racers didn’t really complain, either.

Still, it made the slog up toward the top of the mountain from the starting line all the more difficult. The lead racers broke trail, but nearly all were gasping for breath when they finally crossed the finish line.

The course ran up from the top of the gondola, sending racers hiking up toward the

top of the mountain. It cut up and down the ski area, past the top of the Pony Express chairlift and finally ended at the picnic area at the base of the Bashor terrain park.

“Cody, I didn’t know him, but he must have a heck of a sense of humor,” racer Channing Reynolds said. “I’ve never skied powder so incredibly exhausted. It’s deep, a full-on powder day, but it’s different when you’re totally exhausted.”

Plenty of those who participated in the event did know St. John, though.

St. John was a ski patroller at Steamboat Ski Area and died from injuries sustained in a car wreck almost exactly three years ago.

He had been on his way to Un­­­i­­­­versity of Wy­o­­ming, where he planned to start pursuing a nursing degree, when the wreck happened.

Cody’s Chall­enge now raises money for scholarships for ski patrollers chasing similar careers in medical fields.

Family affair

The event marked an important day for St. John’s many Steamboat friends, a chance for them to remember. It proved important to his family, too.

“It’s amazing to still see so many people coming out, remembering Cody’s life and having fun,” said Corinne St. John, Cody’s sister. “I think every year, there will be a new little twist on the day. This year, we got plenty of snow. It was an awesome race.”

An evening party at Bear River Bar & Grill wrapped up the day’s activities. Ski patrollers were there, friends and family were there, and so were three people who received St. John’s organs after he died, including heart recipient David Freshman, who played with his band, Tuff Grooves.

“It’s hard not to come back to Steamboat,” said Cody’s mother, Candy St. John. “The patrollers are so great. They make us feel so welcome. We’re like a family.”

“We feel at home here,” added Corinne, who lives in New York City. “This is the place where Cody loved. He loved it here in Steamboat, so for us to continue coming out, establish the foundation and carry on his legacy means everything to us.”

2010 Cody’s Challenge results

Long course results

  1. Kyle Lawton 1:37.25.00; 2. Gavin Malia 1:38.46.05; 3. Scott Eden 1:40.46.04; 4. Jeff Keller 1:41.27.25; 5. Amy Lawton 1:41.38.09; 6. Chad Gruben 1:43.04.43; 7. Mike Forny 1:43.38.32; 8. Andy Picking 1:43.49.53; 9. Erik Besselman 1:47.16.00; 10. Tyler Klansnic 1:47.22.81; 11. Ed Briones 1:48.49.38; 12. Billy Van Ness 1:48.52.68; 13. Dan Gilchrist 1:49.44.77; 14. Keith Van Ness 1:50.39.38; 15. Jonah Lotz 1:51.07.26; 16. Loury Armstrong 1:51.20.25; 17. Brian Gardel 1:52.48.23; 18. Andrew Hyde 1:54.10.77; 19. Will Carlton 1:54.53.13; 20. Dan Lemmer 1:56.26.01; 21. Matt Hartman 1:56.30.37; 22. Brian McGovern 1:57.20.56; 23. Moe Messine 2:05.28.91; 24. Laura Sehmert 2:12.14.65; 25. Kipp Rillos 2:15.01.69; 26. Ryan Thompson 2:15.40.32; 27. Becky Kuhl 2:16.17.31; 28. Karen Tremaine 2:16.27.61; 29. Craig MacDonald 2:19.03.09; 30. Liz Baldwin 2:19.37.18; 31. Nicholas Sunseri 2:21.12.00; 32. Kristen Moore 2:29.01.63; 33. Marc Brown 2:38.04.46; 34. Michael Ehrlich 2:39.59.27; 35. TJ Brady 2:44.31.67; 36. Thomas Courtright 2:46.48.21; 37. Claire Palmer 2:46.52.21; 38. Michelle Baxter 2:49.12.00; 39. Bryan Ayer 2:50.01.49; 40. Pete Van DeCarr 2:51.27.97; 41. Jacob Jarvis 2:53.17.21; 42. Channing Reynolds 2:53.37.20; 43. Jon Feiges 2:55.17.58; 44. Jeremy Hockley 2:55.17.58; 45. Andy Radzavich 2:57.54.66; 46. Tom Scilacci 2:58.23.18; 47. Sharon Crawford 3:09.10.02; 48. John Nyen 3:19.37.62; 49. Torre Saterstrom 3:20.56.76; 50. Kim Hess 3:20.58.77; 51. Susan Demars 3:27.34.73

Short course results

  1. Cristen Malia 1:37.30.51 ; 2. Becky Obray 1:37.30.86 ; 3. Andrew Stoller 1:42.15.89 ; 4. Brad Cooke 1:47.25.48 ; 5. Peter Simon Hook 1:48.59.13 ; 6. Kim Temple 1:50.42.94 ; 7. Abby Johnson 2:39.57.85 ; 8. John Smith 2:47.13.54

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