STARS Mountain Challenge fosters competitiveness and charity
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In its seventh year, the STARS Mountain Challenge looks to continue bringing out the best of Steamboat Springs.
Not only does the scavenger hunt-like competition encourage skiers and snowboarders to get competitive, but it’s a massive fundraiser for local nonprofit Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports, STARS.
Ahead of the 2019 mountain challenge, the community raised $117,000, the most ever raised by the event, which began in 2014. On Saturday, March 7, teams will try to break that goal on Steamboat Resort while competing with an Olympian, Paralympian or elite skier that is assigned to each team.
“I think that the competitive side of people comes out and also because the people in the community here are so nice, and they would rather be competitive in an event that raises money for a local nonprofit that serves people here, as opposed to signing up for some random skiing event,” said Rebecca Hext, STARS volunteer and special events coordinator.
Each team member is required to raise $250 in order to compete in the challenge, which assigns points to lifts and runs on the mountain. The team with the most points at the end of the day wins.
There are also prizes for the team and individual that raises the most money. There is also a shorter version of the challenge in which some families and STARS participants will compete. The winner receives a STARS-themed gift basket.
The biggest prize of all, of course, is a gift basket filled with donations from local businesses and sponsors, granted to the team with the most points, along with a trophy.
From the beginning, the Yampa Valley Bank and Christy Sports teams have dominated, exchanging the trophy each year, with Christy being the most recent victor.
What: STARS Mountain Challenge
When: 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 7
Where: Steamboat Ski Resort
Teams won’t know what trails are worth what until the night before, when the map is unveiled at a party at the STARS Ranch. Winning isn’t about skill, it’s about finding the optimal route.
“You don’t need to be the best skier to win, you just need to be the smartest skier,” said Hext. “The black runs aren’t worth more points than the blue runs, across the board. You can ski blues all day and still win. It’s not the best skier wins.”
Credit analyst Eric Vavrasek is the team captain for Yampa Valley Bank and will be competing in his fifth Mountain Challenge. With a win in his first year competing, Vavrasek was hooked on the Mountain Challenge.
He said his team has a specific strategy for making the most of their day.
“What Christy will do is hit the high-value runs, but it might take more time to get up there and access those runs. What we kind of do is maximize the amount of runs that we do,” said Vavrasek. “It’s interesting because at the end of the day when we get down and get down there, we took more runs than they did, but because of the point value system, the ones they hit are more valuable. The last three or four years, it’s come down to one or two runs.”
If the pattern continues, Yampa Valley Bank will steal the trophy back from Christy Sports. Hext thinks it would be fun to see someone entirely different come out on top, though.
“We’d love to put somebody else’s name on it,” Hext said of the trophy. “Not that I don’t want (Christy Sports or Yampa Valley Bank) to win, but it would be really fun if there was an upset and somebody else came through and stole it from them. If there are people out there that think they can beat them, we would love for them to come.”
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