Athletes and ski enthusiasts tested their mettle at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area yesterday, pushing themselves to complete as many laps as possible in 10 hours.
The ski area's Enduro event has been held for 24 years. It's a friendly competition that pays off with bragging rights, but also doubles as a fundraiser for a good cause.
"It is a long day and it's a physically demanding day," said Adrienne Saia Isaac, A-Basin's marketing and communications manager. "But I think what keeps people going is that when it comes down to it, this is benefiting a great cause, and it's a lot of fun."
On Wednesday, 33 teams of two took laps on the Pallavicini "Pali" Chair from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Participants, including both skiers and snowboarders, followed 20 designated routes in consecutive order, trying to make as many laps as possible in the designated time. The record is 72 laps.
The event isn't for the faint of heart. The course includes black diamond and double black diamond runs.
"We have some pretty expert terrain. A lot of people who have some of the higher lap records are the ones who have done it for a couple of years and they know the lines. That helps a bit," Saia Isaac said. "And you've got to have legs of steel - that doesn't hurt."
The athletes enjoyed powder conditions, but also had to brave the cold and falling snow.
"It was pretty low light this morning. It was a little cold, but not freezing. The sun came out for a minute and then it started snowing," Saia Isaac said.
This year, the youngest competitor in the challenge was 10-year-old Koa Rashidi. Edward Boardman, also known as "Deadhead Ed," has participated in every Enduro since the beginning. He was back yesterday, as part of team Jerry's Kids with James Airey.
The most seasoned participants were Dave Drake and Ron Rose. Drake also happens to be the father of the fundraiser's honoree, Jen Oliver.
Oliver has been A-Basin's human resources generalist since 2010, and has lived in Summit County for more than eight years.
Last year, Jen was diagnosed with a brain tumor and is now undergoing extensive radiation treatments at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. Funds raised from the Enduro, the silent auction and spaghetti dinner will help offset the medical costs associated with her diagnoses and treatments.
The atmosphere at the event was competitive but friendly. Some people really push themselves to complete as many laps as possible, while others are just there to enjoy the snow and to support Oliver, event representatives said.
"Everybody keeps it civil. People here know each other, and they've known each other for years," said Saia Isaac. "You might see some friendly rivalries but you don't see anything too intense."
The Enduro has become one of A-Basin's most popular annual events and serves as a way to benefit a person or cause close to the A-Basin family, said Leigh Hierholzer, director of marketing.
"Each year, the event feels a little different depending on the individual it benefits," Hierholzer said.
Enduro has become more community oriented in the past couple years, with the addition of a post-race party.
After the race on Wednesday evening, event competitors, their friends and family, and guests at the mountain gathered to share stories and laughs while eating a three-course meal featuring a selection of Italian pasta dishes. The celebration also included beer specials, a silent auction and music from Summit County band High 5.
"One of the most amazing things about this event is it showcases how generous and bonded our community is up here, and how willing people are to help," Saia Isaac said. "Jen is entirely grateful and she's such a humble person to begin with. This event really solidifies that Summit County is a great place to be and we really take care of our own up here."