Like a kid again: 36th Summit County 50+ Winter Games returns Feb. 12-14 | SummitDaily.com

Like a kid again: 36th Summit County 50+ Winter Games returns Feb. 12-14

You're never too old to toss a snowball.

Just ask Pat Young, reigning champion for the women's Snowball Toss at the annual Summit County 50+ Winter Games. The Ohio native who now calls Breckenridge home dominated the 65-70 age division last season in the best (and only) way possible: by making and throwing snowballs at a darts-style target better than dozens of fellow seniors. After all, she's had six decades of practice.

"Believe it or not, I really like the snowball throw," Young said (and we believe it). "It's a competition for anyone who wants to compete. We joke and laugh and watch people who underhand, overhand — people do it all. We get into ties and have tiebreakers. It's a really easy thing to do (and) really fun."

Young returns to the Frisco Nordic Center next week (Feb. 12-14) to defend her title at the 2017 Summit County 50+ Winter Games. Founded in 1981, the event has grown and grown over the past 36 years and now includes two days of competition — first at Keystone Resort, then at the Frisco Nordic Center — plus an opening night dinner that draws athletes, friends, family and anyone else who wants to support the Winter Games' beneficiary, the Summit County Community and Senior Center in Frisco.

"The Senior Center is all about wellness," said Sandy Bainbridge, a longtime local who now oversees the Winter Games with help from a sprawling cadre of volunteers. "We're heavy on recreation, and that's because we have active seniors who move here for skiing and biking and the climate. So much of what we do is focused on wellness and I think that sets us apart from other senior centers in the country."

The Winter Games kick off on Sunday, Feb. 12, with the opening-night dinner and packet pick-up at the senior center. This is the real meat of the fundraiser, with a homemade pasta dinner for $15 and dozens of silent auction items, including gift certificates, ski gear, trip packages, concert tickets and more.

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"You know how generous this community is and we have so many donations," Bainbridge said. "We even get non-racers (and) non-Games people who come out for bargains on dinners and music tickets and anything else you can imagine."

Alpine at Keystone

The first day of competition starts 10 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 13, with ice events on The Village at Keystone pond and alpine skiing (or snowboarding) at the Epic Racing giant slalom course on the front side of the mountain.

Like most of the 75 expected participants, Young doesn't only compete in the Snowball Toss. She also steps into a set of ice skates for a duo of events: doubles figure skating and the popular Hockey Goal Shoot. She's reigning champ for both of those as well, making her one of the most well-rounded athletes at this year's Winter Games.

"There aren't a lot of women competing (on ice), so we want to keep ice skating in there because it's a reminder of your childhood," Young said. "We have a 76-year-old who comes up every year from Evergreen and she loves that."

The Winter Games might be held in Summit, but they're designed for anyone with that child-like love of all things snowy and frosty and fun. In 2001, Midwest native Audrey Schultz moved to Granby and fell in love with ski racing. She worked as a ski patroller at Afton Alps for years, but it wasn't until her two daughters went to college — one at the University of Denver, the other Montana State University — that she started tempting the race gates. It only helped that her kids were her coaches, even when she couldn't make it to the mountain until mid-morning because of ranch duties.

"I have to feed livestock before I go skiing, so we meet up and enjoy each other's company for an hour or two," said Schultz, who now runs a nonprofit, Bits N' Spurs, that pairs kids with rodeo events. "I'm not that 9-to-4 skier anymore. We're just very lucky we live here because we have the ski areas so available."

Last season, at 68 years old, Schultz entered the giant slalom race at the Winter Games for the ninth time and was paired up with a younger and seemingly faster partner. When the day ended, Schultz was crowned queen in her age division.

"I'm not young anymore, but I think that was a thrill for me," Schultz said. "To be my age, 68 years old, and beat them all was just a thrill. When you have a rabbit to catch, you will go faster… It's like being a kid again."

Nordic in Frisco

The Winter Games end on Tuesday, Feb. 14, with Nordic races, biathlon, a snowshoe race and the infamous Snowball Toss. New this year is a 10K Nordic race, what Bainbridge calls a "more competitive" option than the traditional 1K, 2.5K and 5K races. All races are held on the Frisco Nordic Center trails, while the Snowball Toss is held right outside of the day lodge.

So what's the reward for dominating at the Winter Games? Medals, and plenty of bragging rights with the kids who usually get to brag.

"We like to take (the medal) home and show it to our grandchildren, showing them, 'Look what grandma and grandpa were doing this weekend,'" Young said. In the end though, when the Winter Games wrap up, the real reward is just getting out with good friends for two days of playing in the snow.

"What's fun for me is all of the people," Young said. "The seniors up here in Colorado are such a vibrant group of people. They enjoy life, they enjoy being out, they enjoy getting together and being supportive of each other. It's a very cool time to be out here."

2017 SuMmit County 50+ Winter Games schedule

Sunday, Feb. 12

4 p.m. — Doors open for dinner at Summit County Community and Senior Center

4-6 p.m. — Auction

5:30 p.m. — Pasta dinner, $15

Monday, Feb. 13

9 a.m. — Hockey Goal Shoot, The Village at Keystone pond

9:30 a.m. — One-lap ice-skating race, The Village at Keystone pond

9:40 a.m. — Three-lap ice-skating race, The Village at Keystone pond

10 a.m. — Singles and doubles figure skating, The Village at Keystone pond

10 a.m. — Giant slalom, Keystone Resort

11 a.m. — Rally race, Keystone Resort

Noon — Obstacle course race, Keystone Resort

Tuesday, Feb. 14

9 a.m. — 10K Nordic freestyle race, Frisco Nordic Center

9:30 a.m. — 1.5K and 2K beginner and intermediate classic races, Frisco Nordic Center

10:30 a.m. — 5K classic race, Frisco Nordic Center

10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. — Biathlon, Frisco Nordic Center

10 a.m. to noon — Snowball Toss

Noon — Long (2.5K) snowshoe race, Frisco Nordic Center

12:15 p.m. — Short (1K) snowshoe race, Frisco Nordic Center

2 p.m. — Awards ceremony, Summit County Community and Senior Center