For one young freeskier attending Sunday's U.S. Snowboard and Freeski Assocation Rocky Mountain Series competition at Copper Mountain, bringing a smile to a friend troubled by the slow deterioration of his loving father was more important than keeping a prized week away at ski camp for himself.
Series director Paul Krahulec had awarded a week at the High Cascades Snowboard Camp to Hayden Smith, 13, of Winter Park, during the series-ending raffle. Realizing the camp was for snowboarders only, Smith handed the gift certificate to Mikey Tuck, also from Winter Park, but a snowboarder.
Smith knew Tuck had been having a rough go of it, watching his father die slowly of pancreatic cancer. According to Krahulec, Tuck's father has been helping fund his skiing, but hasn't been able to attend the events. He was supposed to come up Sunday but was too sick to attend.
"Such a prize would have been an amazing opportunity for Hayden as a skier, but knowing it is going to someone who really needs something good to look forward to really touched us and brought a tear to ours and Hayden's eyes," Krahulec said. "Hayden said (Tuck) had put up with enough stuff this year, so why not just go out and have som fun?"
What Smith doesn't yet know is Krahulec was so moved, he reached out to friend and series sponsor Tim Windell of Windell's Camp at Mount Hood, Ore., for a week at a camp that accommodates both skiers and snowboarders. He'll receive the prize for his generosity and compassion toward a hurting friend.
"I thought 13-year-olds were pretty self-centered," Krahulec said, but added that Smith proved him wrong. "Those two kids are killing it and doing big-kid stuff. They're super good. They're respectful, and thankful we have the opportunity to do what we do. I'm just stoked to be a part of what they're doing."
The karmic twist surprised Krahulec as he was handling the logistics of a competition for about 550 athletes of all age groups in the Rocky Mountain Series. Two-thirds of those competitors are from the High Country of Colorado, including Frisco's Gregory Spaulding, who, despite a 17th-place finish on Sunday, still ranks atop the Rocky Mountain Division.
Out of 18 skiers, Spaulding just missed finishing last after falling on both runs. Still, he will likely earn a spot to compete in nationals at Copper Mountain on April 8, as he sits in the No. 2 spot nationwide in the age group, his father, Wayne Spaulding, said.
"He's been pretty consistent until this past week," Wayne Spaulding said. "He wasn't happy with the jumps - they were a lot smaller than he's used to. At nationals, they should be using the larger jumps he's used to."
The competition was at the Woodward Park in the Western Village part of the mountain.
Gregory Spaulding says he keeps sharp by skiing with older kids who push his limits, like Ethan Swadburg (who won nationals lastyear), Kai George and Levi Asher.