Cody’s Challenge serves as cathartic, joyful way to end the ski season (with video) |

Cody’s Challenge serves as cathartic, joyful way to end the ski season (with video)

When Cody’s Challenge began 14 years ago, it was to remember Cody St. John and support the foundation started in his name. St. John, a ski patroller at Steamboat Resort, died in a car accident in April 2007 on his way to nursing school orientation at the University of Wyoming.

The annual ski mountaineering challenge raises money for the Cody St. John Foundation, which provides funds to ski patrollers looking to further their education in the medical field.

Fourteen years later, the event still serves the same cause. But it has evolved as well.

“It became a community thing where we have a cool memorial where it’s not just about Cody, it’s about anyone and everyone,” said Kyle Lawton, who was a friend of Cody’s and is now chief of course for Cody’s Challenge.

This year, many people thought of Drew Hyde, who died in an avalanche a couple weeks ago.

Mara Rhodes was one of a few people wearing Patriots gear as a way to honor and remember Hyde. Rhodes wore a Tom Brady jersey while taking part in the challenge on Saturday.

“We just rallied some of Drew’s favorite things. He loves adventures like this and he’s from Massachusetts not far from where I grew up,” Rhodes said. He’s one of my favorite Bostonians of all time, and I miss him a lot.”

While it was hard for Rhodes and Lawton to not get emotional when thinking of their friend, the day wasn’t about being sad, but embracing the challenging course and soaking up a gorgeous late-winter day.

“These are just the kinds of things Drew liked to do,” Rhodes said. “Community events that are hard and fun. … It’s an amazing homage to Cody and all the people we lose too soon.”

With a 8:30 a.m. start at Thunderhead Lodge, the sun was shining. Even before starting, people were shedding layers, anticipating a sweaty climb.

For 10-year-old Ryder Robinson, the first climb was the best part since it was long. Oscar Dalzell, 13, appreciated the adrenaline that got him through the first climb.

At the top of the first and largest climb of the event, some people flicked off their skins in one swift motion. Gigi Lobeck,13, made sure to take a few moments to take in the views at the top of Morningside, which was her favorite part of the course. Others stopped to down a beer before descending Chute 1, which was 13-year-old Ethan Maines’ favorite portion of the day.

Cody’s Challenge is, as it’s called, a challenge, but it’s still the type of event that draws in young athletes and people new to the sport of skimo.

Oscar Dalzell nears the top of his final climb of Cody's Challenge on Saturday, April 2, at Steamboat Resort.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Steamboat resident Ashley Matuga just got into skinning this year, but she’s dipped more than just a toe in, ascending Thunderhead and Storm Peak and logging plenty of time on the hill.

So, she and Cody’s Challenge regular Erin Ross signed up for the long course.

“I think it’s a really good opportunity to support Cody’s foundation and ski patrol and get here and see what it’s all about,” said Matuga.

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