The Blue Sky Cup


There is a sense of challenge and adventure in my soul that partly stems from being a teen at camp. As an adult with a demanding life that sense still appears from time to time; that longing to attempt challenges even if I fall short of my goal or fail. A couple of weeks ago was the “6th Annual Blue Sky Cup”. Hayden Fisher and Jim Nollsch started this fundraiser 6 years ago to raise money to aid in finding a cure for arthritis. The challenge is to “ski a little harder, for a little longer, than any day of the year.” At minimum, you need to ski 40,000 vertical feet, ride 5 chairs in Blue Sky Basin and ride 15 different chairs on the mountain, ski a race course, and have a minimum of four people on your team in costume. There are other fun challenges that gain you points along the way.

I thought this sounded like an awesome day for a wonderful cause, but had not committed to it. On Monday morning before the event, Jeff says loudly and kind of passively from his office, “there is this Blue Sky Cup this Friday…” before he could even finish his sentence I jumped in with, “we need to do it, and we should do it on tele mark skis. I think we would be the first team to compete on tele mark skis” My mind was made up we needed to attempt it. We needed at least 2 or more crazy people to join us on teles (or more if we can find them). We roped in Karl, David and Peter. We had a team, now we needed a costume that would not take too much effort to pull together. It’s Mardi Gras season, and I have lots of supplies in that department, so Mardi Gras it was.


As the day got closer I started to get very nervous. Could I handle the physical demand of this challenge? Do I have what it takes? I started to think about what gear I would need to be prepared; water, quick snacks, and layers. It brought me back to being a camper with a looming physical and mental feat in front of me. I am grateful that I love the feeling of putting myself in these challenging situations- which has continued throughout my adult life.
We put our day job and life’s responsibilities on hold and we were off to Vail. It was a beautiful, warm day (maybe too warm). We had an amazing team assembled and our costumes were sufficient and not too annoying to wear while skiing. We cruised through the beginning of the day with beautiful fresh groomers. We were checking off our chairs and our fun extra points. We got Prima, Pronto, Log Chute, Highline out of the way with fresh legs. We headed to the back bowls, checked off 4 chairs and then bam… our chairlift stopped for a windy, kind of frightening, and valuable ten minutes. We finally got to the top to find that the back bowls were now closed. We headed to the front of the mountain; the lift lines quickly grow. The snow was slow and slushy; the hours in the day were slipping away, my legs started to ache and it started to set in that we may not make it to 40,000 vertical feet. That familiar feeling comes, “We are going to get close to the top of this peak and we are going to have to turn around because there is not enough time to do it safely!” We skied as quickly as we could for the next two hours finishing up with 37,500 vertical feet. We did not make it. We had five competitive people on our team and there was some disappointment that we wouldn’t achieve “the goal.” But as the day ended, we started talking about what we did right, what we could have done differently, how much fun we had spending the day together and how we did accomplish that goal of “skiing a little bit harder, for a little bit longer, than any other day of the season.” We didn’t make the 40,000 vertical feet and just like my days at camp we were happy. Jeff saw David the next day at ski school drop-off and David summed it up perfectly when he said, “It just makes me smile.”


As I forage through the responsibilities of adulthood and long gone are the days of being a carefree camper at camp; I still relish the experiences that push my body, mind and soul. I celebrate the peaks of which I don’t make it to the top and value successful failures. I am grateful for my experiences in the mountains at camp as they fostered the sense of challenge and adventure. I love the moments when I get to dig down to find that sense again. I happily return to my day job of making it possible for youth from all over the world to come to camp for a similar experience.
The Blue Sky Cup is already on our calendars for next year. We will have a bigger team, bigger smiles, and we will reach 40,000 vertical feet.

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