Kim Easton said she has a pretty good idea why the Wells Fargo Ski Cup in Winter Park, Colorado, has become the country’s longest running professional ski race.
The event, which brings together the world’s top skiers with disabilities, amateur skiers, and snowboarders to raise money for the National Sports Center for the Disabled, manifests NSCD’S mission of “empowering the human spirit through sport,” said Easton, the nonprofit’s president and CEO.
“There are very few fundraising events like the Wells Fargo Ski Cup,” Easton said. “It’s not a gala, or golf tournament, or a breakfast but an opportunity to actually see and experience what we do.”
The 43rd Wells Fargo Ski Cup took place Feb. 23-25 at Winter Park Ski Resort and featured three races, a silent auction, and other fundraising activities that drew 5,000 disabled and amateur skiers, snowboarders, celebrities, NSCD and corporate guests, and the resort’s own 30,000 guests.
The Wells Fargo Ski Cup is NSCD’s signature fundraiser, Easton said, and “where we invite participants and sponsors to spend a weekend with us doing what we do every day of the year: finding a way to say ‘Yes you can,’ to someone.”
Kyle Taulman, 16, is one of those people. Once a child with a tumor that invaded and damaged his spinal cord, he’s now an up-and-coming NSCD competitive skier who hopes to one day represent his country in a program with more than 50 Paralympic medalists.
“When I’m on the mountain it doesn’t feel like I’m disabled and like I have a disability,” Taulman said. “I can ski along with my friends and do whatever I want. It just feels like everyone else. I get to experience an adaptive sport and learn that there is life after you are disabled.”
Jim Johnson, who serves as complex manager of Wells Fargo Advisors’ Colorado offices in Boulder, Fort Collins, and other Rocky Mountain area communities, joined Wells Fargo’s 120-person Ski Cup volunteer contingent in 2015. The group was part of the event’s 1,000 volunteers.
“The vision of Wells Fargo really embraces diversity and inclusion,” Johnson said. “Inspirational athletes and an event like this just line up with everything we’re about.”
Ski Cup origins
Both the NSCD and Wells Fargo Ski Cup trace their roots to the 1970s and one man’s ski lessons.
In 1970, while an instructor at Winter Park Ski Resort, Hal O’Leary volunteered to teach skiing to amputees at Denver Children’s Hospital.
That eventually launched the NSCD and Wells Fargo Ski Cup, which began in 1975 as a promotion for Winter Park’s new Mary Jane ski territory. A predecessor bank had signed on as sponsor, and Wells Fargo has remained the event’s title sponsor for the NSCD benefit ever since.
More than skiing
Money raised at the Wells Fargo Ski Cup allows the NSCD to offer year-round sports experiences to more than 3,700 children and adults each year — a group including 3,686 recreational athletes, 65 members of its Competition Center, and 169 military veterans.
They enjoy a wide range of sports, including alpine skiing, kayaking, rock climbing, camping, horseback riding, and archery. In fact, snow sports only comprise 34 percent of the experiences NSCD participants enjoy each year.
The more than $250,000 the Wells Fargo Ski Cup raises each year is important, Easton said, since participant fees cover only 15 percent of program costs. The rest comes from Wells Fargo Ski Cup proceeds, individual donations, grants, sponsorships, and other fundraisers.
“We started as an alpine skiing program but are now a year-round program serving all disabilities and all ages,” Easton said. “We have something for everyone … and remain fluid and dynamic in our offering so we can say yes to whatever someone wants to do.”
Whether it’s the Kids Snowplow Sprint (for children ages 5-12), the Sarah Holm Memorial World Disabled Invitational (for the world’s top skiers with disabilities), or the signature Corporate Challenge event (for six-person teams of five amateur corporate skiers and one skier with disabilities), all Wells Fargo Ski Cup races challenge the same 250-meter slalom course, which has 16 gates that skiers typically conquer in 15 to 30 seconds.
As exciting as the Ski Cup races are for fans and participants, Easton said she really enjoys the personal connections made and lives changed. Each year, she said, the event results in a new volunteer, a new financial supporter, and a new sports or life goal achieved.
Said Easton, “When the races are over and the banners come down and everyone leaves the resort, what lingers are the friendships made and the experience of seeing what these amazing people are capable of doing.”
Wells Fargo Advisors is a trade name used by Wells Fargo Clearing Services, LLC, Member SIPC, a registered broker-dealer and non-bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company.
Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. is a bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company.