Donation Day 1st chair

 Jack, Peter, and Sara Spencer ride the first chair of the season on Donation Day in honor of the late Scott Spencer. (Photo by Bria Light/Telluride Daily Planet)

F2 cover: Jack, Peter, and Sara Spencer ride the first chair of the season on Donation Day in honor of the late Scott Spencer. (Photo by Bria Light/Telluride Daily Planet)

On Wednesday morning, over 900 avid skiers and snowboarders hit the slopes a day earlier than the official season opening to participate in Telluride Ski Resort’s Donation Day. An annual tradition, the resort offered $25 lift tickets and donated 100 percent of ticket sales to the Telluride Ski and Snowboard Club (TSSC). 

This year, Donation Day raised approximately $23,000 for the club, one of the highest figures in the history of the event. 

The first chair honors for the 2019-20 season went to Sara, Peter, and Jack Spencer, who recounted favorite memories of blissful powder days from past winters while waiting for the 10 a.m. go time. They rode the first chair of the season in honor of Scott Spencer, husband and father, who passed away last winter. 

When asked what he’s most excited about for the upcoming season, Peter Spencer answered without hesitation, “Powder!”

In the Village core, skiers and snowboarders paused by the table offering refreshments of steaming hot coffee and donuts provided by TSSC. Avid skiers of all ages headed towards the base of Lift 4 in full winter attire, smiles betraying their sentiments at being back on the slopes after the three-season hiatus. The lifts hummed merrily once more, ferrying colorfully-clad skiers and snowboarders to the top of the hill, where they could choose from Misty Maiden or Village Bypass, or even cruise all the way down to the Meadows for a longer joyride and catch Lift 1 back up, the other lift running for the day.

Dylan Saunders, 10, and Blake and Regan Chandler, 10 and 12 respectively, buckled their boots and clicked into their skis as they prepared for their first run of the season. All three are active in the ski club, and have been skiing since before they could remember.

“I’m just excited to be out here on the snow,” Regan Chandler said with a smile. She is looking forward to ski racing this season with TSSC, especially the slalom.

Meanwhile, a ski school class dubbed “the Snow Cheetahs” by the students prepared to hit the slopes, as the budding skiers attempted to stay upright on the slippery snow. Ski instructor Logan Lanier kept the stoke high as the three young skiers persevered up a slight slope to the lift.

Since 1985, the club has welcomed young skiers and snowboarders from the area who wish to pursue their passion on the snow, whether it’s alpine, free-style, telemark or other styles of skiing. They also offer snowboarding, Nordic skiing, and as of recently, figure skating. This year, over 400 kids from the Telluride area will participate in the club’s offerings, though perfecting their turns or mastering a new trick are not all that they stand to gain.

“It’s a competitive club, but we don’t value results over all the other things,” said Justin Chandler, Executive Director of TSSC. “Work ethics, attentiveness, attendance, mindfulness, sportsmanship, being a good teammate — those things come first. And after all that is success. We’ve found that by making our goals about those other things first, success follows. So we get the best of both worlds, great kids and success.”

Donation Day is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the club, which welcomes athletes from first grade through high school. One hundred percent of the funds raised by ticket sales on Wednesday will go towards scholarships.

“Anyone can join regardless of their parents’ financial situation,” Chandler said. “You have to have a strong desire to be here, but beyond that, we will make it work.”

Chandler also noted the unique and positive relationship the club has with the resort. Telski not only provides the annual support of Donation Day, it works all season long with the club to help kids have a positive experience.

“They really bend over backwards for kids,” Chandler said. “I don’t know of any other resort that does this kind of fundraiser and donates it all to the kids. It’s really unique. It’s a special relationship that we’re thankful for.”