More than 100 police officers from all over the world descended on Snowmass Village last week.
It wasn’t for a large-scale tragedy or a crime but for a ski race. For 25 years, law enforcement officers from all over the world have come to Colorado for the North American Police Ski/Snowboard Championships. This year, like most in the event’s history, the racers flocked to Snowmass.
“It’s not the easiest place or the cheapest place to get to, but it’s a quality mountain. We enjoy it,” said Richie Herr, of New Jersey, chairman of the organization. “Fabulous race crew. I mean those guys are really good; they know their business.”
Aspen Skiing Co. works with the championship organizers to make the race happen. The weeklong event is highly organized, starting with a clinic and welcome party and followed on the second day by a heat race, which helps to divide everyone into four ability categories. The next three days are race days.
The race pulls law enforcement officers from the U.S. and Canada as well as from overseas countries like Austria, New Zealand and Italy. Some local officers get involved, as well: Brian Olson and Jason Powell, of the Snowmass Village Police Department, won first and second in a head-to-head race on March 6, said Harry Drucker, of Sherman Oaks, Calif., a board member.
Drucker said the North American Police Ski Championships is one of the longest-standing races for law enforcement officers. It’s unique from others, he said, in that it’s a week long, officers typically bring family and friends, and it’s a charity-based event.
“I don’t think we talk shop too much when we’re here,” Drucker said. “You know, you go to other law enforcement-related events around the country, and everyone’s just talking shop. We’re more about … family, friends. You see people that you met here years and years ago.”
Herr started the championship race after participating one year in another police race that was for-profit. The first two years, the event was held in Crested Butte, and it raised money to help victims of a bank explosion that happened there.
Today, the championship primarily raises funds for the Special Olympics. Racers pay their own way, and sponsors help with the cost of putting on the event. The championship has raised more than $750,000 for the Special Olympics Winter Sports Program over the years.
The race also raises money for two smaller initiatives. One is a charity that the race organizers created after 9/11 for families of police-officer victims, and the other is a foundation for Parkinson’s research.
And, on the final day of the event, the racers ski with Special Olympics athletes. Officers from Coral Gables, Fla., take them out to lunch.
“As many as we can get Special Olympics Colorado to get together and come out and spend the day,” Drucker said.