Hike for Spencer remembers local athlete while raising money for Ski Education Foundation
Ever since he saw Tommy Moe win the gold medal in the 1994 Olympics, Spencer Nelson was smitten with skiing.
He began at the Winter Park Resort competition center at age six and his family moved to Winter Park when he was nine to support his passion. Nelson eventually made his way onto the Division 1 Alpine racing team at the University of Colorado.
Nelson also had other athletic and outdoor passions, including hiking 14ers. It was during one of these hikes in 2010, at Maroon Bells in Aspen, that a tragic accident occurred and cost Nelson his life.
“Very shortly after we lost him, we realized one of the things that made him a great kid was the competition center and all the wonderful coaches and fellow athletes that he had come in contact with,” Peter Nelson, Spencer’s dad. “We decided right then and there that we needed to hold some kind of fundraiser for the comp center.”
Nelson’s family began hosting the Hike for Spencer fundraiser, which benefits the Winter Park Ski Education Foundation, in an effort to support other children in their passion for winter sports. It is the largest fundraiser for the Ski Education Foundation and has raised over $300,000 since its inception.
“We really believe in the competition center program,” said Peggy Smith, Nelson’s mom and secretary for the Ski Education Foundation. “It’s an amazing program for kids to learn discipline, resilience, sportsmanship, it’s just life-long skills they take with them wherever they go in life.”
The event starts at the Mary Jane Base at Winter Park Resort on Saturday morning and offers two hiking paths for participants, as well as live music and a catered lunch from Smokin’ Moe’s.
Nelson said they expect about 200 to 250 people attend this year and they hope to raise another $50,000 this year.
“We’ve never turned down a kid that’s asked for money and I wish that we had more money to give,” Nelson said.
The money raised goes to mostly local kids, though kids from outside Grand County have received money, to help pay for fees for the Competition Center, as well as any travel expenses or camps. It helps about 50 to 60 kids a year, Smith said.
The family said they plan to host the fundraiser for two more years and hopes that ultimately the fundraiser will raise $500,000 for the Ski Education Foundation.
“It’s been a great event since we’ve kicked it off,” Smith said. “Spencer was an amazing kid and he had a lot of friends, so it’s really nice to see people haven’t forgotten him and they are having a good time pursuing their passions.”
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