Summit County: The Summit Foundation’s key ingredient |

Summit County: The Summit Foundation’s key ingredient

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Without the ski resorts, Summit County would be a very different place. Just ask The Summit Foundation, which likely wouldn’t exist without the support of the area’s biggest industry.

The Summit Foundation is often referred to as the “over-riding” nonprofit in Summit County. It can gather funds more efficiently than 80-plus individual nonprofits acting on their own, and it provides leadership and workshops for area nonprofits, as well.

But perhaps more importantly, The Summit Foundation boasts connections with ski areas that no other nonprofit, business or individual in Summit County can claim. The Summit Foundation has access to a unique commodity known as medallions, which are every bit as precious and highly-sought after in Summit County as Willy Wonka’s Golden Tickets were in the novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Medallions are part of the Patron Pass Program, wherein local ski resorts – namely Copper Mountain, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area and Vail Resorts’ Breckenridge Ski Resort and Keystone Resort – donate fully transferable passes to The Summit Foundation. The passes are then purchased by local businesses and individuals in the community. The funds from the purchases go into The Summit Foundation’s budget to be redistributed to approximately 85 nonprofits and 80 scholarships throughout the area.

The passes are unique because they are not exclusive to one person. The medallions can be used by anyone, and are excellent tools for employee benefits, hosting clientele on a ski trip or for individuals or families who receive frequent visits from friends and relatives.

Medallions vary between the four-mountain and six-mountain variety, with the former providing access to Copper Mountain, A-Basin, Breck and Keystone, and the latter adding Vail and Beaver Creek ski resorts. The ski areas provide The Summit Foundation with 300 transferable ski passes each year. The value of the passes are difficult to determine, as they are not available from any other source besides The Summit Foundation, but according to Summit Foundation executive director Lee Zimmerman, the passes raise about $860,000 in funds annually. That works out to be about 60 percent of The Summit Foundation’s annual budget.

“It’s a three-legged stool between the resorts, ourselves and the individuals and businesses in the community who buy the passes,” said Zimmerman.

Vail Resorts provides the passes through its ECHO division. Vail Resorts ECHO attempts to bring the interests of all its stakeholders – guests, employees, communities, shareholders and the natural environment – under a single umbrella. ECHO senior charitable contributions manager Nicky DeFord said the Patron Pass Program started at Breckenridge before Vail Resorts purchased the local ski resort, but Vail Resorts opted to stay with the program as The Summit Foundation came into existence.

“The Summit Foundation is really the nonprofit that serves other nonprofits here, and we feel privileged to help support them and the community,” DeFord said.

Passes can be purchased in a variety of ways, and purchasing a Patron Pass provides more than just time skiing on the mountains, including discounts on tickets for friends, four days of skiing at other area resorts such as Winter Park and Steamboat and a pair of complimentary rounds at the Keystone Ranch Golf Course. For a full list of extras, visit The Summit Foundation website at and look under Donate.

The Four Mountain Pass can be purchased for a minimum donation of $4,000, and the Six Mountain Pass requires a minimum donation of $5,000. A Premier Patron Pass can be secured for a four-year, $15,000 commitment – $4,500 in year one, $3,500 each year after – and provides the Six Mountain Pass at a significant discount for a long-term commitment. Zimmerman said Premier Patron Passes provide The Summit Foundation with a clearer picture of future cash flows, and are highly beneficial to the foundation’s year-to-year fundraising efforts.

How a business raises money to purchase a pass is up to the business, and Zimmerman said employee fundraising through The Summit Foundation could be put toward securing a pass for a business.

Zimmerman said there were still “about five or six” passes for sale for the 2010-2011 season. For more information on the Patron Pass Program, visit The Summit Foundation website at or call at (970) 453-5970.

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