2022 STARS Mountain Challenge breaks multiple records, raises more than $100,000

Participants in the STARS Mountain Challenge celebrate at a past event. The fundraiser, which helps Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports provide services to people living with disabilities, brought in more than $100,000 in 2022.
STARS/Courtesy photo

For years, there has been a fiercely competitive rivalry in Steamboat Springs. The Christy Sports team and Yampa Valley Bank teams have gone back and forth winning the STARS Mountain Challenge. But the 2022 edition of the fundraiser for Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports saw a new victor crowned.

A team composed of people working at Smartwool, Town Hall and Landmark Consultants plotted a creative and win-worthy course over the Mountain Challenge map, racking up more points than any other team and earning the 2022 victory.

“We didn’t change the way we advertised it or marketed it,” said Susan Petersen, development director at STARS. “I think people are just ready to be together and support adaptive recreation. We definitely had a lot of teams sign up and be pretty excited about it.”

Todd Givnish, a sales manager at Smartwool, which sponsors the event, was asked if he wanted to get a team together and he jumped on it.

“I’ve always kind of admired the challenge, and when Smartwool reached out and asked if I wanted to create a team, I decided to reach out to some friends and we put together a stellar squad.”

Givnish and other first-time competitors helped break a participation record.

A total of 155 people made up 18 teams in both the full and mini challenge. With record participation came record fundraising. More than $120,000 was raised for STARS, which provides recreational opportunities to people with disabilities, providing equipment and lessons to build confidence and independence.

Steve Williams and his team, Old Fracers w/o the K’s, have been participating in the Mountain Challenge since 2014. This year, with 12 people, the team raised an event-high $22,207.

“Having a really, really good cause to start with that attracts people’s attention and willingness to support. And secondly, you’ve got to go ask your friends to donate some money,” Williams said. “I participate in other things here in the community. This is the only one where I personally ask my friends to make a contribution.”

Williams and his teammates don’t focus as much on the skiing and point-earning aspect. They want to support the cause and enjoy a day on the mountain, but they decided around 1 p.m. that they had seen their fair share of the resort.

The Smartwool/Town Hall/Landmark team was taking the skiing seriously.

Givnish and his teammates spent some time the night before the challenge poring over the map, which was only recently revealed. They planned out a course that would allow them to pass through trails and take lifts that are designated as worth a certain amount of points.

The challenge was well-named, and made even more taxing by heavy snow.

“It was challenging in creativity and skiing a bunch of terrain in conditions I would have not normally chosen,” Givnish said. “It was challenging at times to keep the group going and not going inside for snacks.”

The Smartwool/Town Hall/Landmark crew knew they had stiff competition in Christy Sports and Yampa Valley Bank, and also had no previous experience with what constituted a winning effort. So they had no idea how well they were doing as they pushed through the wintry, busy weekend on the mountain.

The team had some good runs to end the day and opted to finally take a break and have a beer at The Stoker before heading to the finish area.

Once they found out they won, it not only instilled pride in the team, but a desire to defend that title.

“We’re excited for a new rivalry. I think our team will stick together,” Givnish said. “We may have created a new tradition.”

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