STARS to put on ski and snowboard challenge in March

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— On March 28 and 29, Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports, or STARS, will be taking to Steamboat Ski Area terrain for a friendly competition, as its clients with autism, physical and cognitive disabilities, Wounded Warriors and cancer survivors will be working with and against one another in a series of ski and snowboard challenges.

The 2014 STARS Mountain Challenge will bunch up those clients with Olympian, Paralympian, celebrity and professional athlete coaches into teams of 15 to 20. The Challenge will run teams through a series of tasks, such as riding all 16 lifts at the ski area and reaching Mount Werner landmarks as checkpoints.

STARS Development Manager and Challenge Director Todd Gollnick said that abbreviated challenges would be available for those whose disabilities don’t allow them to compete in the more demanding team goals. Able-bodied skiers are welcome to participate, as well.

Gollnick said Saturday's portion of the two-day affair has a simple goal.

“Whoever can complete those checklists as a team will be the winners, so to speak,” he said. “The whole idea of the day is to keep it fun.”

The STARS Mountain Challenge is a supplement to the Ski 4 Yellow event that has happened during the past few years. Ski 4 Yellow was a similar challenge that ran in conjunction with Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation. Given the turmoil surrounding Armstrong, Gollnick said the event would continue running but that STARS would take over and expand the weekend of entertainment.

Gollnick added that while Ski 4 Yellow went toward a good cause, he expects the Mountain Challenge to be more expansive and inclusive to competitors with various abilities. Kerry Shea, who helped organize the Ski 4 Yellow event for a few seasons, said the Mountain Challenge can be looked at as an elaborate scavenger hunt.

“They’re going to be going places on the mountain I haven’t even been to,” Shea said.

Also, the money raised will stay in Steamboat Springs and Routt County and go directly to programming for those with disabilities. In previous years, Ski 4 Yellow proceeds benefited on a global scale with Livestrong, and only a portion of the money stayed locally.

The highlight of the two-day event very well may be what precedes the Mountain Challenge. On March 28, STARS will be hosting a black-tie-themed dinner at The Steamboat Grand. Before March 29’s ski and snowboard challenges ramp up, competitors can mingle with their celebrity coaches and teammates and get in on the benefit auction that will be held at the same time.

Those interested can participate in either the black-tie dinner or the challenge, or double up and take part in both.

Gollnick said the event is in the planning stages and that Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. is linking up with celebrity coaches and competitors, who will remain a secret for now. Registration and tickets will go on sale mid-January, and he is expecting a sellout crowd.

“I think we will easily have a few hundred folks who will participate,” Gollnick said about the Mountain Challenge. “The dinner the night before, we can accommodate around 400 or 500 people. We expect it to be one of Steamboat’s premier and fun events.”

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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