Steamboat Springs Liana Gregory skied for her mother, who passed away nine years ago from cancer.
She skied for everyone who couldn’t ski Saturday because of their own battles with the disease. And she skied for the future of the fight against cancer.
On a reported 8 inches of fresh snow and under bluebird skies at Steamboat Ski Area, Gregory and almost 200 other skiers and riders logged 2.2 million vertical feet in the inaugural Ski 4 Yellow fundraiser to benefit local cancer services and the national Livestrong organization.
For Gregory, it was a day of sun and snow to honor those lost to cancer and to celebrate a zest for living.
“What’s so great about Livestrong is that it encourages living life,” Gregory said. “We’re out here celebrating recreation in the mountains and being outside and enjoying life.
“We’re living strong.”
The all-day ski event challenged each of the 10 teams to ride every chairlift on the mountain and rack up points for hitting certain landmarks.
Guides like Gregory, who was a Ski 4 Yellow committee member, and one or two U.S. Olympians led each team.
Gregory’s Team 3, known affectionately as Team Awesome, had the opportunity to ski with former Olympian Alpine skier Caroline Lalive and ski jumper Randy Weber.
The word awesome was thrown around a lot throughout the day, as the group weaved its way around the ski area, skiing more of the mountain in one day than many locals do.
“This is the best morning I’ve had in a long time,” said participant Andreas Sauerbrey as he greeted event co-chair man and Ski 4 Yellow director Kerry Shea at the top of the gondola for a lunch break.
That was exactly the type of experience Shea hoped the event would provide.
“It’s a sense of purpose, commonality and inspiration when you associate an event like this with a challenge,” Shea said. “When you’re pushing yourself on behalf of yourself or a loved one, and as much as skiing is inherent to us in Steamboat Springs, it’s inspiring.”
It certainly inspired countless ear-to-ear grins, whether the skiers were getting ski tips from Lalive or having their Ski 4 Yellow bib signed by Johnny Spillane.
All of the participants averaged 22,000 vertical feet for the day, measured with GPS trackers.
The team with the most points was Team 7, comprising Todd Lodwick, Dave Jarrett and guide Sara Ferris, among others. They hit landmarks like the chutes, North St. Pat’s and the terrain parks.
Every Ski 4 Yellow participant had to raise at least $500 for the fight against cancer. The event could raise as much as $100,000. Shea said the fundraising deadline is the end of April. Half the funds will go to Livestrong and the other half will be granted to Routt County cancer-related efforts through a granting process.
The summer version of the event, Ride 4 Yellow, took place in August and raised almost $300,000.
At the Ski 4 Yellow banquet Friday night, Gregory watched a check for $71,000 from Ride 4 Yellow go to Yampa Valley Medical Center’s cancer services. The nurse who treated her mother accepted the check.
There was no shortage of reminders Saturday about what the event was ultimately for. Almost everyone had a story about a friend or relative with cancer they could tell as they rode the lifts.
Participant Chris Thomas’ father beat prostate cancer, but he lost his grandfather to the disease.
“Anytime you can get a lot of people together for a good time and a good cause, it’s a win-win,” he said.
Some people flew in from other cities for the event.
Adam Henick came from Short Hills, N.J., for Ski 4 Yellow, enticed by his team’s sponsor, Jeff Sussman. But he said he had no idea the athletic component of the event.
“I can barely ski,” he joked.
Now he can go back to the East Coast and say he kept up with an Olympian like Weber, who spent a good portion of the day trying to hit 55 mph with his GPS tracker.
“When the people in the community get behind something, good things happen,” Weber said. “This is a chance for me to give back to the community that supported me and helped me become a successful athlete.”
— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com