Ski for Parkinson’s raises awareness, supports Steamboat families |

Ski for Parkinson’s raises awareness, supports Steamboat families

A group poses for a picture during last year's Ski for Parkinson's fundraiser.
Matt Stensland

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Hundreds of skiers will gather at Haymaker Ski Touring Center for the fourth annual Ski for Parkinson’s on Sunday.

“The first Ski for Parkinson’s event took place four years ago,” said Marty O’Leary, who is the chair of the Yampa Valley Parkinson’s Support Group. “It was a great success, not only as a fundraiser, but also to bring awareness of Parkinson’s to the community. It was also a chance for people to have a great time and to ski, which of course was my dad’s life-long love.”

The idea for a Parkinson’s fundraiser that involved skiing was the brain child of O’Leary’s father Bill Root, who passed away in February 2015. Root was a longtime ski instructor at Steamboat Ski Area, but in the final years of his life, he had to give up downhill skiing because of  Parkinson’s.

His idea was to host a ski day that would be a fundraiser for the Yampa Valley Parkinson’s Support Network, a group that provides camaraderie, education and dynamic activities for people with Parkinson’s and their care partners in the Yampa Valley. This year’s event is scheduled to take place  Sunday, Jan. 28 at Haymaker.

At the time the support group was still in its infancy, but Root’s energy and enthusiasm was a driving force behind its growth. O’Leary said the first ski day was thrown together in a matter of weeks but drew a large crowd and was a success.

And though Root could no longer make his way down the steep-pitched slopes of Mount Werner, he found a new love for cross-county skiing and believed the Nordic version of his favorite sport provided plenty of benefits to those dealing with the debilitating impacts of Parkinson’s.

The Steamboat Nordic Center and Haymaker are both huge supporters of Ski for Parkinson’s, donating their facilities and offering a coupon to help promote the event.

“I just know how pleased and proud he was after the first one, “ O’Leary said. “I just know he would be even more so now. He would be excited for the  potential it brings to the people with Parkinson’s community, proud of the support this community has shown and their generosity to support the event, and what it does for those dealing with Parkinson’s and excited to see so many people out skiing.”

Today, O’Leary is the chairperson of the Yampa Valley Parkinson’s Support Network, which has joined forces with the Parkinson’s Association of the Rockies. Sunday’s Ski with Parkinson’s is the Steamboat group’s sole fundraiser.

The money raised at Ski for Parkinson’s stays in the Yampa Valley and helps cover the cost of an exercise program for people with Parkinson’s and their care providers. The classes run seven days a week and include: Essentrics, a strength and flexibility workout; yoga aquatics; boxing; Nordic skiing; and a strength and balance class.

Event coordinator Carolyn Klingener is inviting anyone who wants to support the group to come out for a day of cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and fun. She said participants are encouraged to dress up in costumes, and the event is a chance to get out and enjoy a day on the snow, something that would bring a smile to Root’s face.

The cost of this year’s Ski for Parkinson’s event is $75  and includes lunch, beer or wine, entertainment and a ticket for a day of cross-country skiing or snowshoeing at Haymaker. Participants will also get a coupon for another day of skiing at Haymaker.

Lunch will be served at 11 a.m. and 12:15 and 1:30 p.m., and ski lessons will be offered at 10:30 or 11:30 a.m.

The Yampa Valley Parkinson’s Support Network currently has more than 50 active members who are either dealing with Parkinson’s or are a family member of someone who is.

“I think the event is amazing in many ways” O’Leary said. “There is going to be a band, there will be food and we will have a raffle for a bunch of gift baskets. It’s a full day of skiing or snowshoeing, and all of the money is distributed locally. It’s money to help people who have been impacted by Parkinson’s.”

For more information about the organization or to register for Ski for Parkinson’s go to or simply stop by the clubhouse at Haymaker on the day of the event.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

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