Skiing for a good cause—the Ben Myers Ridge-a-Thon

Originally published in The Winter Guide, a Taos News publication

Image published in http://raisetheridge.com/

Every year, a popular extreme ski / snowboard event and fundraiser is held at Taos Ski Valley.

The Ben Myers Ridge-a-Thon was started in 1997 to assist with medical expenses for Ben Myers, a beloved Taos skier who passed away from cancer when he was twenty-six.

“The Ridge-a-Thon helps others like Ben, who struggle with medical costs,” said Caitlin Legere, Taos Sports Alliance Executive Director and Taos Community Foundation communications consultant. “It makes direct impact on lives of families in our community by covering the cost of purchase of durable medical equipment and non-medical health care needs. The funds raised on this year’s event will benefit Taos’ Emergency Medicines Fund.”

How it works

Participants can compete in two categories—Most Funds and Most Runs.

“Participation at the level of our top teams, competing for the Most Runs, is a testament to strength, endurance, bullishness, pride, and for a few, the memory and honor of a dear friend,” said Legere. “In contrast, teams of many ages and abilities compete to raise the Most Funds, and may complete just one, or a few hikes over both days, enjoy the weekend on the mountain with friends, and help out a great cause in our community.”

One would think that the competition is geared toward young athletes but this isn’t always the case.

“Our ‘Grannies’ team is made up of a bigger group of savvy skiers who are hiking and shredding even in their golden years,” said Legere. “They enjoy an afternoon hike out and then ski to the Bavarian to enjoy their delicious traditional German fare.”

Changes on the way

As the Taos community already knows, there are many changes taking place at Taos Ski Valley this year.

“We are working closely with the staff during their transition to new ownership, and the inevitable changes that come with it,” said Legere. “They have always been so supportive of the event and we are looking for opportunities to keep it fresh, exciting and rewarding for our participants.”

The lift to Kachina peak is one very glaring change on the landscape of the Ridge-A-Thon event, yet the mountain itself remains the same and the hike is no less challenging, or awesome.

“So the changes don’t actually affect the event as such, with the possible exception of a busier Mainstreet—the run down the face of Kachina,” said Legere. “But once you come off the top of the peak, down to the top of the lift service, you have to start to come back to earth anyhow.”

Other changes this year include a partnership between Taos Community Foundation and Taos Sports Alliance. Taos Sports Alliance will run the event-side planning and marketing, while Taos Community Foundation maintains control over the donations side of the event.

The Ridge-a-Thoners speak

Ross Burns, who skied and worked with Ben Myers, has participated four times in the competition. Three of them, he has been with his children.

“It’s amazing to realize you can do things that you didn’t think you could do,” he said. “One day, I finished twenty-one rounds. And former governor Gary Johnson, who is over sixty years old, completed forty-eight.”

Some people compete every year, so many of the participants get to know each other quite well.

“There is a lot of camaraderie,” said Burns. “This is a friendly, very encouraging crowd.”

Eliana Lerman has competed three times and raised almost 3000 dollars.

“Two of those times, my boyfriend Ryan DeBue and I were partners,” she said. “It was awesome to participate in such a great event with someone else, and also to have their support. During the 2014 season Ridge-a-Thon, Ryan and I hiked thirty times in total and raised over a thousand dollars. The best part, for me, is being able to contribute to a good cause while doing what I love.”

“My first season skiing at Taos Ski Valley, I grew immensely as a skier,” said participant Michael “Red” Wagener. “The Ridge, which at first was off limits for my abilities, became a rite of passage in my second season, and I couldn’t hike it enough. It became an obsession, and I hiked it daily to push my physical abilities and hone my rough self-taught skiing on the steep, tight chutes which descend from it.”

That spring a coworker persuaded Wagener to enter the Ridge-a-Thon, and he won.

“I tied Gary Johnson’s record!” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to defend that title five times since, and push the record to 52, but most importantly, raise thousands of dollars for an amazing local cause simply by doing something I love. The event is supported by so many kind, and generous volunteers, that leaving some sweat (and one year blood) on the Ridge to raise money for such an important fund that helps local people in need is the least I can do.”

For more information about the Ridge-a-Thon visit taoscf.org/ben  and raisetheridge.com .

Ways to get involved

Participate as an athlete by registering and raising at least $200 in donations/pledges before the event and showing up on one or both days to participate.

Volunteer to assist with the event registration, scoring, support, or set up and take down.

Donate to any team or athlete in any amount, or directly to the Taos Community Foundation.

Sponsor the event. Businesses can donate food and drinks, core support, prizes and gift certificates.

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