Words: Eugene Buchanon
When you look at its numbers, the fourth annual Cody’s Challenge randonee race held on Saturday, March 17, at Steamboat Springs, Colo., doesn’t really stop the presses. Named for former Steamboat ski patroller Cody St. John, who died in 2007 at age 29 in a car accident while driving to nursing school orientation, the event has competitors hiking and skinning up 3,000 feet of couloirs and other slopes on Mount Werner.
In the whole randonee scheme of things, that number is relatively paltry. Utah’s Wastach Powder Keg carries 5,000 vertical and Jackson’s Rando Rally 6,185. But it has them beat in the cause category hands down. In all, more than 75 racers traipsed over Mount Werner in the event that honors Cody and benefits the Cody St. John Foundation, which provides scholarships to patrollers working on careers in medicine.
The event featured two courses: a long course with more than 3,000 feet of vertical for avid racers and a regular course for newcomers to the sport. For the first time, it also featured an inter-mountain Cody’s Cup challenge between ski patrols from different resorts, with the fastest team of two receiving a $2,000 grant for the training program of their choice.
The event’s overall winner, Jan Koles of Winter Park, Colo., finished the course in 1:17:17 to win a $1,000 scholarship, followed by Brian Johnson of Aspen four minutes later. For the women, it was Stevie Kramer of Crested Butte in first at 1:23:12, followed by Yari Kirkland, also of Crested Butte, in 1:30:40. But it was seven-year-old Bridger Carlton stealing the crowd’s heart in the short race.
For the inaugural Cody’s Cup award, the Breckenridge Ski Patrol team of Mark Beardsley and Duke Barlow took first with a combined time of 176 minutes, 58 seconds, winning the $2,000 scholarship, followed by the Steamboat Ski Patrol team of Kyle Lawton and Liz Baldwin ?with a combined time of 179 minutes, 3 seconds.
“I think the Cody’s Cup aspect will help grow the event,” says organizer and foundation head Corrine St. John, Cody’s sister. “It fosters fun, healthy camaraderie and competition amongst patrols. A lot of resorts have lost patrollers on the job, and this is a great way to honor not only Cody but also other patrollers who have passed away in the line of duty.” She adds that in the future they might take the Cody’s Cup on the road to other resorts, letting the resort from the winning team host the event.
At the end of the day, everyone reveled randonee-style at an awards party to a local ski patrol band put together by competitor Charlie Reynolds. And joining them on the stage for a few songs was none other than David Freshman, the transplant recipient of Cody’s heart.
“It was a great race,” says course designer and two-time race winner Lawton. “Randonee racing is gaining momentum and this is a great way to celebrate Cody’s life. It’s remarkable how many people he touched with his kindness, enthusiasm for life and respect for the environment.”
Men’s Long Course
1. Jan Koles 1:17:17 Winter Park, CO
2. Brian Johnson 1:21:27 Aspen, CO
3. Kyle Lawton 1:22:31 Steamboat Springs, CO
Women’s Long Course
1. Stevie Kramer 1:23:12 Crested Butte, CO
2. Yari Kirkland 1:30:40 Crested Butte, CO
3. Amy Lawton 1:34:56 Steamboat Springs, CO
Men’s Short Course
1. Bridger Carlton 2:31:07 Steamboat Springs, CO (7 years old!)
2. Will Carlton 2:31:08 Steamboat Springs, CO
Women’s Short Course
1. Susan Geeslin 1:31:47
2. Kelly Landers 1:37:15
3. Morgan Mocie 1:53:30
Cody’s Cup Results
1st place team – Breckenridge Ski Patrol: Mark Beardsley – 1:24:19 Duke Barlow – 1:32:39 Combined time – 176 minutes 58 seconds
2nd place team – Steamboat Ski Patrol: Kyle Lawton – 1:22:31 Liz Baldwin – 1:36:32 Combined time – 179 minutes 3 seconds