Brad Cooke climbs during the 2011 Cody's Challenge race at Steamboat Ski Area. Organizers are hoping a partnership with a regional race series and the virtue of the message they’re broadcasting can help the race get more than 100 people to participate in this year's event, set for April 5.

Joel Reichenberger/file

Brad Cooke climbs during the 2011 Cody's Challenge race at Steamboat Ski Area. Organizers are hoping a partnership with a regional race series and the virtue of the message they’re broadcasting can help the race get more than 100 people to participate in this year's event, set for April 5.

Cody's Challenge set for 6th year

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— The challenge for Cody’s Challenge is to grow, yet retain the local vibe and the memorial spirit that has defined its first five years.

“Some races seem to lose the purpose, the mission,” said Corrine St. John, one of the event’s organizers and the sister of the man it memorializes, Cody St. John.

Past Event

Cody's Challenge fundraiser

  • Saturday, April 5, 2014, 8:30 a.m.
  • Steamboat Ski Area, Mount Werner Road, Steamboat Springs
  • Not available / $60 - $100

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“For some races, the purpose is to go out there and see who wins, but that’s not our purpose,” she said. “We want to put on a really awesome race, but the spirit of the day for us is really Cody.”

Now organizers are hoping a partnership with a regional race series and the virtue of the message they’re broadcasting can help the Steamboat Springs mountaineering race accomplish just that when it returns for a sixth go-around April 5.

Registration is open for the event at www.codyschallenge.org, costing $60 or $100 with a lift ticket.

The race begins at the top of the gondola at Steamboat Ski Area and involves a mix of skiing or snowboarding, skinning and even straight up climbing in some sections. The full course — there’s a shorter version available, as well — will include about 4,500 feet of vertical gain and 5,700 feet of descending.

Cody St. John was a member of Steamboat Ski Patrol when he died due to complications from a car crash seven years ago. Cody’s Challenge began a year later and has engrained itself in the Steamboat psyche in the intervening years.

Cody St. John was pursuing a degree in nursing from University of Wyoming at the time of his accident and the money raised from Cody’s Challenge goes to help ski patrollers with similar aspirations.

It’s grown throughout the years, enough to fund scholarships for at least five patrollers this year. Corinne St. John is hoping for more, however.

A partnership with the Colorado Ski Mountaineering Cup — COSMIC — may be part of the answer.

The series connects 18 events in Colorado and around the region and gives Cody’s Challenge some of the exposure its organizers crave.

“I’m always biting my nails because this is not a crowd that RSVPs,” St. John said. “They check the weather at 3 a.m. and if they’re not local, get on the road at 4 a.m. to come to Steamboat and register that morning.”

Last year, the event fielded 85 racers. This year, it’s hoping to break 100.

“Just a personal goal, I’d like to see it at 125,” St. John said. “I don’t know who we aren’t reaching, who the series might bring in that we haven’t touched yet, so anything over 100 this year and we would be thrilled.”

The word still is expanding locally, too. About 25 racers from Manic Training are expected to join in this year.

No matter how large it grows, however, keeping the event focused on the man who inspired it and the mission it’s initiated remains the top priority. At this point, many of the racers didn’t know Cody St. John, but Cody’s Challenge remains bristling with friends and family eager to share his story.

In addition to the awarding of the scholarships, past events have included performances by a band featuring a recipient who received an organ donation from St. John.

“Even though it’s been seven years, it feels like yesterday,” Corinne St. John said. “Our love for Cody will never fade. Now I feel like we are torch carriers of his spirit, his legacy.

“I want the people who race here to feel the heart and soul of why they’re here. We’ve been successful in that. I know we won’t change how we do things so hopefully it continues to translate.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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