VAIL - Trista Sutter is writing a book, the title of which not surprisingly begins with, "Happily Ever After... ." Her romance indeed played out in fairytale fashion on TV, when Vail firefighter Ryan Sutter won the heart of Bachelorette Trista in 2003, and Eagle County cheered them on. Their marriage was a highly publicized event (with more than 26 million viewers tuning in to watch the nuptials), and today they both embrace Vail as home along with their two adorable children.
On March 9, when Pink Vail hits the slopes to benefit cancer survivorship programs at Shaw Regional Cancer Center, Trista Sutter will be there, in pink. And, as Pink Vail participants wind down the mountain in the Celebratory Ski Down at the end of the day, she will be at the bottom cheering on their valiant efforts and generous hearts, and celebrating our united fight against cancer.
Trista acknowledges she has never had a personal brush with cancer.
"Luckily, I haven't had any family members who have had cancer," Trista said. "But working with the young adults fighting cancer at First Descents camps changed my life."
Trista got involved in Pink Vail, the world's biggest ski day to conquer cancer "because I love this community and the money raised at Pink Vail helps patients throughout their battle." Trista herself doesn't ski much, although both of her kids began skiing at 2 years old. But for Pink Vail, she was on the mountain last year, and would be again this year if she had fully functioning knees.
"It's a great way for people to give back," she said. "People are just grateful to be a part of Pink Vail and happy to be there."
Pink Vail, Trista explains, is a fun, ski challenge anyone can enter. People can set up teams or join teams of their choosing to help raise donations. Skiers and boarders can hunt down five famous decks on Vail Mountain to be eligible for great prizes. Or, they can pick up a Pink Vail Poker Card at each location and play their hand at the Pink Vail Base Camp for prizes.
"If you can't get people to go to Pink Vail, ask them to donate," she said.
Last year, Trista used her Facebook and Twitter pages with over 100,000 fans to encourage friends to join and make pledges. And it worked! She raised $2,500 and was a top fundraiser for the event and has already raised over $3,200 this year.
Finally, at the end of the day, everyone gathers at Eagle's Nest for a Celebration Ski Down to honor and celebrate those who have fought cancer, followed by a concert by Charlie Mars at the base of Lionshead.
"We just celebrate the fact we are all uniting against cancer and to help raise awareness," Trista said.
In 2012, 700 participants and 1,900 donors raised nearly $200,000 to benefit Shaw's new "Spirit of Survival" program, which offers fitness classes, nutritional coaching, emotional support and outdoor camps for all patients and survivors at Shaw Regional Cancer Center.
"Last year, it was so inspiring to hear how many people got involved (in Pink Vail) and really got behind it, and how much money we were able to give collectively," Trista said.
This year's goal is to raise $250,000.
Trista's first experience working alongside cancer patients and survivors came before Pink Vail, with First Descents. Years ago, she and Ryan decided to get involved with First Descents, an organization started by their friend, Brad Ludden. Dedicated to empowering young adults battling with cancer by enabling them to conquer outdoor challenges, such as whitewater kayaking, rock climbing and surfing, it was a perfect fit. Ryan's own outdoor passions caused him to create the 10.10.10 Challenge for First Descents in 2010. He completed 10 feats challenging 10,000 people along the way to give $10 each for First Descents, including an Ironman, the Leadville 100 and 24 hours of Moab. He raised $100,000. Since then, they have been engrained in the organization.
"It's a great organization, and it's been an honor to get to know the participants; they've been through so much," Trista said. "First Descents is where my connection with cancer started."
Through all her dealings with cancer survivors, she said, "I've learned strength from them and resilience."
At Pink Vail on March 9 it is certain Trista and her daughter will be wearing pink - not only because it is their favorite color, but also for those courageous, inspiring souls who Pink Vail honors.
"So join me at Pink Vail on March 9," Trista said. "I will be handing out prizes at the end and toasting everyone for a great day of Pink Vail."
For more information on Pink Vail, including how to sign up or donate, visit www.pinkvail.com.