Grant money helps keep AVSC athletes afloat

When a skier’s wallet runs dry, about the only thing left to do is call mom and dad, dreams of Olympic glory fading away with each ring.

For many winter sport athletes in the United States, keeping this from happening is a constant battle.

“The answer is you have to go home if you run out of money, and that’s not why we train and put in all these hours,” Aspen native Noah Hoffman said from Italy last week. “It’s not what anybody wants to do.”

The reality is, if you are not one of the elite skiers or snowboarders in the U.S., it’s up to you to find funding. Hoffman, a member of the U.S. Nordic ski team, is one such athlete. Unlike “A” team member Simi Hamilton, another Aspen product, Hoffman’s “B” team status can make chasing his ski dreams a major financial burden.

However, there often is someone willing to help, and recently Hoffman became one of nine Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club athletes (current and former) to receive a small but vital grant from local real estate company Coldwell Banker Mason Morse.

CBMM granted the nine athletes a total of $25,000, split equally among them.

“It’s enough of a number to definitely pay some expenses. It doesn’t, obviously, cover everything,” said Aspen native Will Herndon, the president and CFO of CBMM and the managing director of its parent company, Ajax Holdings. “We were looking for ways to support AVSC in a way other than their traditional fundraising.”

This is the third year CBMM has awarded this particular grant. What separates it from normal fundraising is its focus on athletes like Hoffman — each of the awardees is currently training with the U.S. ski or snowboard team, has trained with the AVSC for at least two years, and is in need of funding help.

Being a strong ambassador for the AVSC also is a requirement for the grant.

“It’s great that we have a community partner that recognizes the financial challenges of elite team athletes,” said AVSC Executive Director Mark Godomsky. “We haven’t had enough resources as a club to really support those national team athletes. I think that’s the nice thing about CBMM is they give us the opportunity to reach out to some of our higher end alumni and current athletes to provide some resources that are much needed.”

Among the other grant recipients this year is Galena Wardle, an Alpine skier who competes primarily on the NorAm circuit. The rest are all adaptive skiers: Stephen Lawler, Jamie Stanton, Tyler Walker, Andrew Kurka, Kevin Burton, Thomas Walsh, and Melanie Schwartz.

“Para sports do not attract the same attention or sponsorship dollars as able-bodied sports. Our races rarely have prize money for podium finishes,” Schwartz wrote in an email. “On the extremely rare occasion when prize money exists, it is $100-$300, which is a nice bonus, but is not enough to cover the flight to get to that race.”

CBMM lets the AVSC choose the recipients each year and Herndon said the company hopes to continue to give out this grant going forward.

“It’s really, really valuable. There are always expenses during the winter that are unexpected,” Hoffman said. “Having Coldwell Banker and AVSC team up and provide this funding really allows me and my fellow U.S. ski team athletes from the valley to put our minds at ease and allow us to focus on racing and the reason that we are here.”