‘The Zebulon’ honors free spirit, urges kids not to drink and drive

Scott Condon

Friends of late Zebulon Piffer have found a perfect way to preserve his memory. And they’ve found an even better way to prevent kids from making the same fatal mistake he did.

Friends of the rambunctious young man will hold a memorial ski and snowboard race Saturday at Snowmass. Profits will be used for scholarships for local high school graduates.

Even more important than the race is the request made of younger participants: Anyone under age 21 – the legal drinking age – is asked to sign a contract vowing to call their parents or another responsible adult rather than drive drunk.

Zeb was killed in a single-vehicle car crash on Sept. 30, 1995. The Roaring Fork High School senior had attended a party on homecoming weekend. He was only driving one mile, and friends said he wasn’t bombed. Nevertheless, he was killed when his car rolled.

“It’s a tragedy that’s bearing fruit,” said John Spencer, a ski instructor who taught and befriended Zeb. “You can’t stop kids from being kids. You’ve just got to encourage them to make better choices than Zeb made.”

Race organizers hope that’s what the contracts promote. The race and surrounding events keep getting bigger every year. There were fewer than 40 people in the first race in 1996 and about $1,000 raised for scholarships. Last year there were 115 participants and $5,000 raised.

The event is so popular that midvalley kids who are away at college come back to race, according to Basalt High School Principal Jim Waddick, who was the assistant principal at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale when Piffer died in his senior year.

Unlike some memorial events, the race continues to attract many of Zeb’s old friends and embodies the spirit of the lad.

“I don’t usually feel this way, but when I’m there I feel his spirit is there,” said Waddick.

“The Zeb,” as the race is called, will be held at the Spider Sabich Race Arena in Snowmass on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Registration is at 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at the Cirque Cafe.

The cost is $25 for season-pass holders; $35 for those who aren’t. The price includes the race entry fee, a T-shirt and lunch. Spencer said it wouldn’t be as successful without the generosity of the Aspen Skiing Co.

The grand prize for the race winner will be a pair of K2 skis or a snowboard.

The event already featured a raffle for people who registered in advance. Ten winners were selected. The first was given $1, the next $2. The amount doubled each time. Frank Howard, a 15-year-old sophomore at Basalt High School, won the big prize of $512.