Corn Harvest Benefit Ski Party at Loveland Ski Area raises money for CAIC
Corn Harvest Benefit Ski Party
Date: Saturday, April 25
Time: Registration runs from 8:30-9 a.m.; Local ski tours begin at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.; BBQ lunch begins at 11 a.m.; live music starts at 2:30 p.m.; raffle starts at 3:30 p.m.
Location: Loveland Ski Area
Cost: $60 includes lift ticket, BBQ lunch, raffle ticket, donation to CAIC; $30 if you already have a pass or ticket
More info: Visit www.cornharvest.org
Come snow or shine, the slopes at Loveland Ski Area will bloom with color this Saturday, April 25, due to crowds of Hawaiian shirt-wearing skiers and an abundance of plastic leis. The cause for celebration is the 14th annual Corn Harvest Benefit Ski Party, a daylong event that doubles as a fundraiser for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
“It’s a great celebration of springtime,” said Ethan Greene, director of the CAIC. “You see a lot of the same people every year and there’s a really good vibe. There’s great energy at this event. People are out skiing in Hawaiian skirts and plastic leis and it’s just really fun.”
The first Corn Harvest party 14 years ago was less a large event and more a simple gathering of friends. Event organizer Larry Hall said it was his friend, fellow backcountry ski enthusiast and former Keystone ski patroller Jack Scherrer who organized the first Corn Harvest.
“He said let’s all pitch in 10 bucks, we’ll grill burgers, get some beer and have a big end-of-season party,” Hall recalled. “And at the end of it, he had a couple hundred dollars left over and he said let’s donate it to the CAIC, spur of the moment.”
The party happened again the next year and the next, slowly growing in scope, gaining sponsors for a raffle and always donating funds to the CAIC at the end. Now it’s not uncommon for the event to pull in 250 participants, and the past few CAIC donations have reached the $10,000 mark.
“We’re hoping that we can get even more people up here and raise even more, because the avalanche information center is a great organization and we want to support them,” said Duncan Maxwell with Loveland events and promotions.
Even while growing, though, the event has managed to retain the original friendly atmosphere of its roots.
“I think we’ve always connected with that locals atmosphere at Loveland,” Hall said. “It’s got a small, family community feel to it, which is nice.”
GIVING BACK TO CAIC
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center provides a variety of important functions, including weather and avalanche forecasting as well as public education. Those recreating in the backcountry, in particular, take advantage of continual CAIC reports on weather and snowpack conditions.
CAIC’s avalanche forecasting began in 1973 and is currently the oldest public avalanche forecast service in the nation. The organization receives part of its funding from the Colorado Geological Survey, which comes from the state. It must raise the rest of the money itself. That’s where events like the Corn Harvest and the Breckenridge-based early season Benefit Bash, put on by the nonprofit organization Friends of the CAIC, come in.
“It’s changed over the years a fair amount, but I think you can still safely say about 25 percent of our funding comes from fundraisers like this,” said Greene. “These are hugely important to our operation. They allow us to have forecasters spread out through the mountains of Colorado in the wintertime, and it’s also a really fun event, one of my favorites.”
An enthusiasm for backcountry skiing was one of the main ties between the original group of Corn Harvest friends.
“It just kind of fits our skiing aesthetic,” said Hall of Loveland Ski Area. “I always say there’s the backcountry and then there’s the resorts, and Loveland falls somewhere in between.”
That enthusiasm has led to a healthy appreciation of the work done by the CAIC, such as the daily weather conditions and avalanche reports they put out.
“A lot of us read those daily, as we do a lot of backcountry skiing, so we have an appreciation for that group and just an opportunity to give back to them,” Hall said.
After raising money for the CAIC, the goal of the Corn Harvest is to have a good time, organizers say.
“I’d say it’s a book-end on the season,” Hall said.
The Corn Harvest name actually connects to its springtime date, referring to a slang term for the type of snow typically found during the warmer months. “Corn snow” happens when snow thaws and re-freezes, causing the snow crystals to become more chunky and granular, said Maxwell.
In addition to regular skiing, the Corn Harvest offers an extra perk — the chance to tour the area with a local skier and be shown some of the lesser known hot spots and stashes.
A lunch barbecue will feature buffalo burgers from Great Range Bison, and live music will be provided by the Corn Harvest Band, featuring Mark Morris, the Jon Stickley Trio, Andy Thorn of Leftover Salmon and members of the Rapidgrass Quintet. The music will be mostly bluegrass, said Morris, who has been part of the Corn Harvest music scene for the past few years. Morris also organizes the Clear Creek Rapidgrass Bluegrass Festival each June near Idaho Springs.
Morris’ favorite part of the Corn Harvest Benefit is the people it brings.
“The best part about it is, when you ski Loveland during the year sometimes you’ll see one or two people, but at this particular event, you see everyone,” he said.
A raffle will give away a variety of prizes donated to the event, including skis and bindings this year.
“I think one of the biggest draws, other than the donation to the avalanche information center, is the raffle,” Maxwell said. “Event organizers work really hard throughout the season collecting sponsors and gaining prizes to be raffled off.”
The raffle was what grabbed Greene’s young son’s attention last year. “He’s been saving his money up for some raffle tickets,” Greene said with a laugh.
The popularity and success of the event is gratifying for its originators.
“He’s just amazed that this little party he started is still going strong 14 years later,” Hall said of Scherrer. They’ve also been pleased with the ski area’s adoption of the event.
“(When) we used to do this thing, we asked Loveland if we could have the event there and how it’s becoming part of the Loveland calendar, and I think they appreciate the event and they’ve made room for it, made a home for it,” said Hall.
Though it’s not clear whether the weather will provide another late-season powder day or more of a sunny springtime atmosphere, all those involved are looking forward to the festivities.
“Prepare to have a good time,” Morris said.
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