Born as the brain child of then Sunlight Ski Patroller, and now Sunlight Mountain Manager, Mike Baumli, the Defiance Challenge was modeled after the 13-hour “Enduro”, which has been held at nearby Arapahoe Basin for more than 3 decades. “There are other endurance events out there,” Baumli concedes, “but we wanted to do something for both skiers and snowboarders that would showcase our mountain’s character, charm and all it has to offer – including the lifts.” Sunlight’s old but carefully maintained chairlifts are an important part of the Defiance Challenge experience, since the relatively slow 12-minute ride to the top of the main Primo lift is just about the only time that Challenge participants get to eat, drink and catch their breath. The rest of the time, they’re making their way down the mountain as fast as their legs and lungs permit.
In 2012 Sunlight Volunteer Ski Patrol, a 501c3 non-profit organization was looking for a way to raise funds for ongoing medical training. What better way to draw attention to a gem of a mountain than hold an event that showcases the terrain Sunlight has to offer? Sunlight Resort graciously agreed to provide lift service for 10 hours in the Spring of 2012. The event was a go, now for a name. The Challenge gets its name from Sunlight’s Defiance run, a steep, north-facing trail that’s long been a favorite of expert skiers and boarders. Defiance is part of the steeply pitched Sunlight Extreme area, which includes a dozen black- and double-black-diamond trails that were added to the resort in 1993.
As a 10-hour lift served event, safety has to be in the forefront. After all, the mountain is still open to skiers and riders of all abilities, and there needed to be safety built into the design of the event. It was determined that 2-person teams would be required. Since many of the runs are in the trees and down Sunlight’s extreme terrain on the East Ridge, having a partner adds an element of safety. The course was laid out to maximize the number of runs that participants can complete in 10-hours. A circuit was designed utilizing the Segundo and Primo lifts, breaking the mountain down into 4 different sections, 10 runs in each section, and Defiance Challenge was organized.
What started out as a way to raise additional funds for the Sunlight Volunteer Ski Patrol, a nonprofit organization that has provided emergency medical care, safety and rescue services here for more than 50 years, has grown into the largest fundraiser for the 501c3 non-profit organization. In 2013, an element of charity was added, and half the event proceeds are donated to assist families of fallen or injured ski patrollers across the region. It’s a way to pay tribute to ski patrollers who have dedicated their time to helping skiers and riders who need assistance while on the slopes. Event co-founder, Cindy Henderson, shares, “Ski patrollers are a large extended family. It’s a great way to honor ski patrollers who have dedicated all or a portion of their lives to helping others. The least we can do is contribute to their families and honor their memory and legacy as patrollers.” A focus has been on trying to find patrollers with young families whose children can benefit from a donation to education, and a reminder of the selfless acts made by their parent and a part of who they were.
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