For the 25th consecutive year, Copper Mountain will host the Special Olympics statewide winter competition. The event will take place March 3, featuring outdoor snow events in alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing.
"There's a longstanding venue partnership for any kind of event," said Amy Turner, Special Olympics Colorado VP of marketing and corporate partnerships. "We have so many first-rate world class facilities up in Summit County, it's really a tribute to Copper Mountain and the people there that have helped us put on the event over the years."
Around 250 athletes and Unified Partners (athletes without intellectual disabilities) will be out on the slopes to compete for gold, silver and bronze medals. They will be backed by 75 coaches and around 300 volunteers, in addition to spectators. There will be 38 different races, with medals awarded at the finish line. The mountain will be open throughout and the public is encouraged to watch.
"It means a lot to our athletes to have spectators come out and watch them and cheer them on, so we do encourage that," Turner said.
Five of the athletes recently participated in the Special Olympics world championships held in South Korea in late January. For Bryan Terry, it was his second time at the world games, competing in the cross-country skiing event. Terry will co-emcee the closing ceremony alongside Marc Stout of ROOT Sports.
To qualify for the state championships, athletes must participate in their area championships first. Colorado has five regions. By winning their race or achieving a specific time, an athlete can then advance to the state championship. There is no age limit for athletes and categories are arranged by skill level.
"Special Olympics Colorado Winter Games is one of our annual signature events and a great opportunity for citizens in the Summit County and metro Denver areas to come out and support our athletes," Mindy Watrous, president and CEO of Special Olympics Colorado, recently stated in a press release.
Spectators are encouraged to watch the competitions at various locations on the mountain. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing will take place at the base of A Lift from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Downhill events also begin at 10 and will take place on the Carefree Two, Easy Feeling, Scooter and Copperopolis trails.
The closing ceremony will be at the Bighorn Ballroom from 4-4:30 p.m. and is open to the public. It acts as a tribute to the athletes, with a slideshow presentation of photos taken throughout the day.
Following the closing ceremony is the victory celebration, which traditionally includes a dance, from 4:30-6 p.m.
A fireworks show will take over the skies from 6 p.m. The best place for viewing will be at Burning Stone Plaza.
"What we're hoping for in our 25th anniversary is really to get more people out to cheer on our athletes," Turner said, "particularly participating in closing ceremonies and being out there to support at the fireworks show."