Fresh Air: Hike for Hope: Same mission, different approach |

Fresh Air: Hike for Hope: Same mission, different approach

Aspen High School graduate Ian Sharp, now a student at the University of Colorado, will participate in a scaled-down Hike For Hope this Saturday. The event is a fundraiser for Becker MD, which Sharp was diagnosed with when he was 10.
Courtesy photo |

The race is over for the Hike for Hope, but event organizers Bob and Carol Sharp are keeping its mission alive Saturday.

The two are the parents of Ian Sharp, an Aspen High School graduate and 22-year-old student at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Sharp was diagnosed with Becker muscular dystrophy when he was 10. Victims are typically struck in their late or early childhood and suffer progressive weakness and muscle degeneration, but not at the same rate as the more common Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The disease is incurable.

Life expectancy ranges from 40 to 50 years, but the severity of the disease can vary.

“He still gets around,” Bob Sharp said. “He has a hard time going upstairs and stuff like that. When he’s in our house, we see how much he struggles.”

Even so, the father said Ian “is doing well,” and he’ll return to Aspen’s Buttermilk Ski Area for the Hike for Hope, which raises money for research into the disease.

There will be distinguishable differences this time around. The event’s competitive element has been removed, the event is being held in March rather than its traditional January or February slots, it is no longer held in conjunction with Winterskol and there is no registration. Instead, money will be raised online at http://www.hikefor

The changes are because of the ESPN Winter X Games, which needed more setup time, and the Hike for Hope apparently stymied that effort. The U.S. Forest Service, which owns the land and leases it to Aspen Skiing Co., also asked for a percentage of the Hike for Hope’s revenue, even though it is a nonprofit.

So instead of participants rising early for the traditional 7 a.m. start, the Hike for Hope will be held at 10 a.m. It won’t be timed, and Bob Sharp is calling it a “group hike” that will start at the base of Buttermilk and finish at the Cliffhouse on top.

“There are no door prizes, no prizes for the winner,” he said. “But it’s still a community event and a family hike. We’re inviting people to hike with Ian instead of seeing who can be the fastest to the top.”

The pace will be slower, but Bob Sharp said Ian will make it to the top regardless.

“Imagine that you don’t have any muscular strength in your quads,” the father said. “You have to use your hips to move up, and you’re assisted with ski poles. You can see that Ian’s struggling, but he can make it work enough.”

Past Hike for Hope events have drawn as many as 300 participants, but Sharp is expecting about 10 percent of that figure for the event’s 12th edition. He also noted it is taking place the same weekend as the Grand Traverse, the ski-mountaineer race that starts at midnight tonight in Crested Butte with the final leg down Aspen Mountain to the Gondola Plaza on Saturday morning.

This year’s Hike for Hope isn’t just restricted to Buttermilk, either. Sharp is asking people to take photos of their hikes in other places — whether it’s Smuggler Mountain or Torry Pines State Natural Reserve in California. The Sharps will post the photos on the Hike for Hope’s Facebook page.

“I don’t know if there are many events like this,” Bob Sharp said. “You might be doing the Grand Traverse or hiking as a family. Take a photo, and check in with us on Facebook.”

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