Nicefund holds fundraiser in honor of fallen skier |

Nicefund holds fundraiser in honor of fallen skier

summit daily news
summit county, CO Colorado

FRISCO ” Remembering longtime-friend Chad VanderHam, Joey Vallone has one distinct memory of their many exploits together in extreme skiing.

The two were working their way down 5,000 vertical feet of, what Vallone called, breakable crust.

“The conditions were rough,” Vallone said. “But when we get to the bottom, Chad just looks back up the hill and back at me and just says, ‘Nice.’

“That’s what he was always like. I would go back to the bar and say how it was pretty brutal, and he would be telling people that it was the best breakable crust that he ever skied. He would always find the positive in it. For him, it was always about the adventure of it, and he would always just say, ‘Nice.'”

This is why the summer following his friend’s death, Vallone, along with four others, started what is called the Nicefund, dedicated to VanderHam’s memory.

Saturday night at 6:30 p.m., the Nicefund will be hosting the Chad VanderHam Fund Raiser at Backcountry Brewery in Frisco.

At the time of his death, VanderHam was in the process of becoming a certified guide through the American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA). Because of this, the Nicefund awards scholarships to aspiring ski guides through the AMGA, giving them full tuition in the program, training or test of their choice. Costs for these programs can be upwards of $2,200.

“We wanted to start something that would help to carry on his legacy,” Vallone said. “When he passed, it hit the ski community pretty hard. This was something that we were all dedicated to and felt we could help.”

VanderHam fell victim to a skiing accident while near La Grave, France in April 2006. According to previous Daily News articles, VanderHam lost control of his edges on a patch of ice and slid off a 200-foot cliff. Skiing alongside him that day was his mentor and idol, mountaineering legend Doug Coombs. When Coombs realized that VanderHam had fallen, he approached the edge to try to locate his friend, when he too slid on the ice and fell.

VanderHam was 31-years-old. Coombs was 48.

Originally from Minneapolis, VanderHam came to the Rocky Mountain region to attend Colorado State University in Fort Collins. There, he met Vallone, along with Mitch Marquardt, Simon Fryer, Keith Garvey and Nate Kegabine, the other founders of the Nicefund.

The Nicefund awarded its first scholarship last year to Adrian Bellinger of Aspen. Bellinger is now one of about 40 fully-certified AMGA guides in the country.

The fund will award another scholarship this year.

Though the training and tests for these certifications are all business, the process by which the Nicefund chooses its recipients is a little more light-hearted.

“A lot of things like this will have a big questionnaire for their scholarships,” Vallone said, “but we just have them send in a five minute video answering two questions: Who you are and why you want to ski.”

This fairly easy-going process was conceived by the five CSU grads in honor of their fallen friend’s personality.

“Chad would ski with anybody,” Vallone said. “It didn’t matter who you were or how good you were. He just loved to ski, and we thought we’d try to find people similar

to that.”

Saturday’s fund raiser is also aimed at starting a grant for ski exploration and expedition skiing. Vallone said that it would only be the second grant of its kind.

Tomorrow’s event will feature food, live music and a raffle that includes a pair of K2

Coombas, named after Coombs.

For more information of mountain guide certification, visit

Bryce Evans can be reached at (970)668-4634 or at

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