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Ski for Sisu lets skiers work hard for Spring Gulch

Aspen Times Staff Report

“Sisu” is Finnish for persistence, endurance and a willingness to work hard.

That’s why it figures in the name of a fund-raising skiathon at the Spring Gulch nordic trail system. The eighth annual Ski for Sisu will be run at Spring Gulch on Saturday at 11 a.m. The cross country trail system can be reached by driving west from the traffic light at Main Street and Highway 133 in Carbondale and continuing for seven miles.

The Spring Gulch ski area is operated by the Mt. Sopris Nordic Council, which has provided free skiing for the community for 13 seasons.

Ski for Sisu is an appropriate name for the event because every year local nordic skiers raise money for trail grooming and upkeep on the 19-kilometer trail system through their persistence, endurance and hard work. Skiers earn money for the ski area by skiing for it. Each kilometer skied earns money pledged by Norwest Bank and other donors.

This year, the ski area needs to raise $4,000 for its trail grooming budget. Norwest Bank has pledged $2,000, but other pledges are needed.

Each kilometer skied will “earn” money for the ski area. Norwest has pledged a nickel for every kilometer-year skied by participants. Kilometer-years are calculated by multiplying the distance skied by a participant by his or her age. For example, a 45-year-old skier who skis 15 kilometers would achieve 675 kilometer-years and earn $33.75 of Norwest’s pledge for the ski area.

In the last seven years, more than 600 skiers have skied nearly 10,000 kilometers and raised almost $50,000 for the Spring Gulch trail system.

Trophies will be awarded to skiers who score the most kilometer-years. The scoring system allows older skiers to compete favorably with younger hotshots.

Jeremy Foster, coordinator of the event and a nordic council board member, said Spring Gulch supporters are encouraged to seek pledges from friends and local businesses. Donors are free to pledge a certain amount of money per kilometer-year or just a lump sum to the event.

“Typically we have two or three people who raise a lot of money,” Foster said. Last year, he said, Margarete Kresz of Carbondale raised $1,075 in pledges and also placed third among women with 798 kilometer-years. At the age of 76, she skied 10.5 kilometers on the 3.5 kilometer loop.

“We’ve raised between $4,350 and $9,400 each year,” Foster said. The largest number of skiers to show up for the event was 113. “Last year, we got 69 skiers even though it was a really rotten day,” he said.

Though the event lasts four hours, most skiers don’t continue that long, Foster said. “We have lots of whole families that ski,” he said. Some even pull kids in a sled or carry them on their backs. But there’s a hard core group of skiers that competes for glory.

The greatest distance anybody has skied was the 63 kilometers Dexter Williams of Aspen logged in 1993. Williams was 50, so his efforts yielded 3,150 kilometer-years, the record to date.

Foster believes Francis Whitaker of Carbondale has the record for being the oldest participant. He skied seven kilometers at the age of 85.


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