High-altitude Fun & Fundraising
By Clayton Paddie, Bugle Intern
As the 2010 ski season wound down and the Steamboat Ski Resort gondola carried its last downhillers to the top of the slopes, a crowd without skis waited to be whisked upward to experience a different kind of adrenaline rush.
On April 10, a group of 259 Elk Foundation volunteers and members convened on Mt. Werner at more than 9,100 feet to eat, drink and celebrate elk and conservation at the Steamboat Chapter’s Big Game Banquet. After the lifts closed to skiers at 3 p.m., chapter volunteers feverishly loaded all the auction pieces, merchandise, prizes and decorations into the eight-man gondolas for what RMEF Colorado state chair Brian Soliday calls, “The fastest banquet in the country.”
“We have to get it all to the top of the mountain and then back down in seven hours,” he says.
After the stage was set, the gondolas turned back for those attending, and after a 10-minute ride above snowcapped peaks, guests were dropped off at the Thunderhead Restaurant where BBQ ribs and cold beer awaited them.
With hunger abated and thirst quenched, the pumped-up crowd was ready for an auction overflowing with archery hunts, fishing trips and hunting gear. After the gavel struck its final blow and the dust settled, the chapter had generated over $30,000 for the RMEF. The event also brought 128 new members into the fold, including 20 sponsor members.
But the work didn’t stop there. Volunteers loaded the guests back onto the gondolas, hastily packed up decorations, and took a moonlit ride back down the mountain.
Soliday says it quite simply: “There is no possible way we could do this without the hard work of the volunteers.”