Last March, at one of the awards parties during the 2015 Phillips 66 Masters National Championships in Sun Valley, Franz Fuchsberger was in prime form. He held up one of his colorful Fuxi speedsuits, cajoling the crowd to bid higher and higher on it.
“Sold — $600!” he finally shouted at one of the 200-plus masters racers seated below the low stage, “But you don’t really want the suit, do you?”
The high bidder blinked at him, uncomprehending at first. Then, without another pause, he donated the suit back to what had turned into a spontaneous fund-raiser for Hailey Duke.
Duke, a Ketchum local and Olympian who was sidelined after shoulder and knee injuries, hoped to compete at the U.S. Alpine National Championships in the East later that month if she could find the money. It would be her last major event before retiring at age 30 to go to college.
Within a few minutes, Fuchsberger had garnered another 10 bids on the speedsuit, this time topping out at $550. The dumbfounded Duke gushed with gratitude. A room of random masters racers, most of whom had never met her, had just donated $1,150 to send her to Nationals.
That’s just one example of how masters racers have helped fund the goals of not only U.S. Ski Team members, but also athletes at every level, and for many years. Here’s a primer on two ways that juniors can hit pay day — or at least help pave the way to the podium.
Far West Scholarship Program
Since 1992, the Far West Masters Scholarship Program has awarded more than $1 million in support of aspiring Far West ski racers. In 2016, about $50,000 will be distributed to fund training and racing opportunities from regional to international levels. The program also administers the Jeff Wattenmaker Scholarship. Named for masters racer Jeff Wattenmaker, it’s a $10,000 stipend ($2,500 per year for four years) for collegiate ski racers.
Pierre Jeangirard, a masters racer and coach from Far West Division supports the Far West Masters Scholarship Program. Lisa Densmore Ballard photo
“The money is important to these athletes, but it’s not the real value,” says Eddie Mozen, who oversees the Far West Masters Scholarship Program with fellow masters racers Miles Anderson and Doug Fulton. “Ski racing teaches kids how to be motivated. It develops kids who will contribute to society — the next doctors and lawyers. They see someone else supporting them besides Mom and Dad. They learn to work with sponsors. We have a code of conduct, too. If a kid messes up, he gets a year of probation. Most then become successful.”
Initially, the money for the Far West Masters Scholarship Program came from direct donations by masters racers. Over time, the program has incorporated such fundraisers as a season-long raffle for both ski-related and non-skiing products and services, and a dual race for masters and scholarship winners. The scholarship fund is also supported by an impressive list of sponsors, including ski manufacturers, clothing and gear companies and businesses outside the ski industry, such as wineries.
Pierre Jeangirard, a masters racer and coach from Far West Division, supports the Far West Masters Scholarship Program. Lisa Densmore Ballard photo
The scholarships are awarded based on financial need, ski racing potential and exemplary work ethic. There’s one more catch: the recipients must forerun a masters race and speak about their hopes and goals at the awards ceremony at the event.
Far West Scholarship winners have run the gamut from budding juniors to U.S. Ski Team members. Travis Ganong, Marco Sullivan, Tim Jitloff and Stacey Cook are among the World Cuppers who have received masters support through the scholarship program.
Eddie Mozen, co-chair of the Far West Masters Scholarship Program, stands with U.S. Ski Team member and scholarship recipient Stacey Cook. Photo courtesy Dan Simmons
Today, they each give back to it, primarily by donating their extra U.S. Ski Team clothing, which either goes to a needy racer or gets auctioned off to raise money for the scholarship fund. Cook also coaches at the Far West Masters annual pre-season camp at Copper Mountain for 20 masters and 20 junior racers.
The Far West Scholarship has supported such World Cup athletes as Stacey Cook, Travis Ganong, Marco Sullivan and Tim Jitloff. U.S. Ski Team photos.
“The masters and juniors share rooms and hill space,” says Mozen. “They make relationships. The masters get to ski with some hot juniors, and for the juniors, at the end of the day, it’s more about the mentoring off the race hill than getting the cash.”
New England Masters Ski Racing Foundation
This is one of the newest scholarship programs, with the first three grants from the New England Masters Ski Racing Foundation (NEMSRF) awarded in 2014 to developing athletes Rylee McCormack, a student at Carrabassett Valley Academy in Maine; Quest Holding, a high school racer in Woodstock, Vt., with hopes of becoming a USSA competitor; and Mikayla Lathrop, a student at Stratton Mountain School in Vermont who was named to the U16 National Training Group.
Tom Lahaise began ski racing as an adult and now serves on the New England Masters Ski Racing Foundation board in support of junior racers. Lisa Densmore Ballard photo
Chuck Thorndike, a masters racers in New England, serves on the New England Masters Ski Racing Foundation’s board. Lisa Densmore Ballard photo
NEMSRF’s goal is to create an endowment of $250,000 by 2019 for the support of New England racers age 18 and younger. This year, the three grants totaled $1,500 ($500 per athlete), modest compared to the Far West Program, but a start. And like the Far West program, the scholarship winners are encouraged to mix with masters racers, forerunning a masters race and attending the New England Masters year-end banquet.
Greg Gill, masters racer and President of the New England Masters Ski Racing Foundation. Jack Ballard photo
“I coach a group of 60 kids, ages 8 to 12, at Mount Sunapee,” says Greg Gill, a longtime masters racer and NEMSRF president. “They’re contemplating if they want to ski race, do freestyle, or continue skiing as a life sport. This is a way for masters racers to help fill the pipeline with future racers, to put kids on the podium. The benefits are long-term and draw athletes into a program that breeds success.”