Challenge Aspen uphill race moves home to Snowmass

Jill Beathard
Snowmass Sun
Competitors climb the slopes of Buttermilk during the Chris Bove Memorial Uphill. The event is now held at Snowmass, following a route from Base Village to Elk Camp Restaurant.
Challenge Aspen/Courtesy photo |

For the first time, the Snowmass Village-based nonprofit Challenge Aspen is having its winter fundraiser in its own backyard.

The annual Chris Bove Memorial Uphill has been held on Buttermilk eight times. On Feb. 22, the event, which attracts skiers, snowshoers and hikers of all levels, will start at the base of Fanny Hill and wind its way toward a pancake breakfast at Elk Camp Restaurant.

Profits from the uphill race are split in half between two beneficiaries. One is a scholarship fund that covers the costs for a resident of the Roaring Fork Valley with disabilities to participate in Challenge Aspen activities, including on-mountain lessons and summer camps, for a full year.

“You are helping one of your community members by participating,” said Jay Israel, who is organizing the event.

The other half helps with a Challenge Aspen camp for patients in the Children’s Hospital Immunodeficiency Program of Denver.

This year, James Starbuck, 13, of Glenwood Springs, is the scholarship recipient. Starbuck has cerebral palsy and autism and has participated in Challenge Aspen programs for five years.

The fund currently helps one local a year, but Challenge Aspen would like to reach more people. To do that, the uphill fundraiser needs to grow, which was why it was relocated to Snowmass, Israel said.

Last year was the first year Israel ran the event, and 120 people participated, he said. That was about as many as Buttermilk could accommodate, though.

Having the race on Snowmass already has helped Israel garner more support from local businesses, such as sponsorship money and discounted lodging for out-of-town participants.

The route will start on Fanny Hill, cross over the skier bridge above the gondola and follow Funnel up to the Elk Camp Restaurant. It is 1.74 miles long with a gain of 1,368 vertical feet — longer in distance but less vertical gain than the Buttermilk course.

At least two people will be pulled up by friends in their sit-skis, Israel said. In the past, blind Challenge Aspen participants have been able to race with the help of family members acting as guides. Israel expects several Challenge Aspen participants to race this year, too.

“It’s for everybody,” he said.

Scholarship recipients must live somewhere between Aspen and Rifle and are chosen based on need, Israel said. The organization also tries to choose a new individual every year.

The uphill and scholarship are named for Chris Bove, a Challenge Aspen ski instructor who died in a ski accident just days before the 2007 event.

Bove’s parents, as well as Starbuck, will be at the pancake breakfast to thank the uphillers. Bove’s parents and nephew, now 7, will participate in the race, Israel said.


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