While the 2014 Winter Olympics get rolling in Sochi, Russia, a different crowd of athletes will be sharpening their skates and tuning their skis as they get ready for competition right here in Summit County this weekend.
Now in its 33rd year, the Summit County 50+ Winter Games returns to Keystone Resort and the Frisco Nordic Center this Sunday through Tuesday, giving athletes ages 50 and older an opportunity to go for the gold right here at home.
“These people think it’s the Olympics,” said 50+ Winter Games chairman Ted Coleman. “They take it seriously.”
The events begin Sunday evening with a pasta dinner and silent auction. All proceeds from the games benefit the Summit County Senior Citizens (SCSC), the Summit County Community and Senior Center and a number of charities affiliated with the SCSC, including Meals on Wheels, medical and nutritional programs for seniors, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center and the Summit County Rescue Group.
“It’s a tremendous event and a great fundraiser for Summit County,” Coleman said.
Last year’s event raised close to $7,000. With a much larger silent auction, Coleman anticipates raising even more this year.
“I think it’ll be substantially more,” he said.
The silent auction portion of the games runs through Sunday and includes prizes from 73 different organizations ranging from a two-night stay at Beaver Run Resort to gear from Helly Hansen. Coleman said winners do not need to be in attendance Sunday and can view and place bids on prizes at the senior center.
The games themselves get rolling Monday morning with ice skating starting at 9 a.m. at the Keystone Lake ice rink and alpine skiing at 11 on Keystone’s Dercum Mountain.
But for a number of participants the competition has already begun.
“They’re already trying to determine who their competitors are and getting out there and practicing,” Coleman said, adding that the majority of competitors are 60 to 70 years old.
He said the 50+ Winter Games has grown to a point where it attracts participants from across the country.
“They come from California, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska. It’s not just exclusive to Summit County. They come in for the games. It’s a very popular event and continues to grow.”
Last year’s games had 83 participants ranging in age from 50 to 92. This year, 86 are signed up, with registration still open.
“They can register right up to the event,” Coleman said.
The games include 17 different events, from a hockey shoot and skating lap races to a giant slalom and downhill. Competition closes Tuesday with Nordic competitions at the Frisco Nordic Center. Nordic events include relay races, snowshoeing and biathlon. Coleman said athletes can participate in as many events as they want. Some take part in only one event, but others compete in as many as 12.
“It’s a fundraiser for a worthwhile cause, and it keeps people who are growing older younger,” he said.
More information is available at www.summitwintergames.com.