Après Reflections: looking back on the 2020 “Game On” Wild Game Dinner & Rip-a-Thon

Despite a year of uncertainty and disruption, the Rotarun Rip-a-Thon and the 2020 “Game On” Wild Game Dinner witnessed not only an incredible display of hard work from athletes and coaches, but also an enormous outpouring of generosity and support from our community. 

The Rip-a-Thon: If you didn’t have ski boots on the ground…

“The sun was out, the music was blasting, and the energy was just contagious; the love of skiing on that hill for those 2 hours was palpable,” says Cross Country Prep Team head coach Kelley Yeates. During the Prep Team’s Rip-a-Thon shift, 39 athletes put down a total 928 laps—557 Kilometers, double their original goal—on a Saturday morning. Sinnott says that some of her athletes called it their favorite day of the season. “I’ve grown up as an alumnus on this team, and have been coaching for almost 15 years now and I don’t think I have ever seen anything like it!”  

photo courtesy of Heather Black

The novel event of the Rip-a-Thon granted SVSEF athletes the opportunity to come together in a COVID-compliant way, working towards the goals of raising $50,000, and skiing 1,000 Kilometers and 2,000,000 vertical feet.

The reports from Rotarun hardly vary: scores of bright-eyed athletes putting in their best efforts to glide, carve, and soar over as much snow as possible, sporting wide grins and sprinkling the air with competitive banter. In a year largely characterized by isolation, the act of congregating all teams to one location and focusing them on mutual goals invoked an elusive feeling in the year 2020: one of community. Snowboarders commended the ‘badass’ cross country skiers; racers popped off of the freestyle team’s features; cross country skiers gingerly slid through the racers’ panel slalom. While the teams all worked toward their respective distance and vertical gain goals, there was a tangible joy in sharing a space to play in the snow together. 

 

photo courtesy of Heather Black
photo courtesy of Craig Wolfrom
photo courtesy of Heather Black

‘Game On’ and changing the game:

Closing out the three days of the Rip-a-Thon was the 2020 Game On game dinner event. While few traditions have survived the era of social distancing with their integrity, Game On demonstrated the creative opportunity within reorganizing old traditions, with house-to-house delivery of To-Goat Game Dinners and ahour-and-a-half livestream program.  

The FIS Alpine, XC Gold, XC Comp, Big Mountain, Freestyle travel, Freeski travel, and Alpine X teams set the backdrop for the Game On livestream as they closed out the Rip-a-Thon. While athletes threw tricks onto the air bag, skated by at top speed, and knifed turns down the panel slalom in the background, the evening’s Masters of Ceremony—Scott McGrew and Steve Porino—shared Game Dinner history, coach interviews, SVSEF history, and fundraising updates.

Photo courtesy of Jim Grossman

The live action was broken up by video-shorts that detailed what the various teams have been up to recently, covering everything from roller skiing at the Sage Willow Campus, to the steps taken to make dry-land training pandemic-safe, to athletes traveling throughout the mountains after completing their Avalanche 1 safety course. In addition, the program included ‘Legends of Bingo,’ which featured the smiles and stories (and of course, the bingo numbers) of SVSEF’s legendary alumni, coaches, athletes, and supporters.   

Finally, as can always be anticipated, the program included plenty of SVSEF signature shenanigans: from Rick Kapala’s off-key crooning for “an older truck with a snow plow,” to Ben Pettit clad Jonna Mendes’ 2003 official US Ski Team speed suit, to Banks Gilberti saluting Scotty’s ability to “wear the hell” out of vintage ski pants.  

photo courtesy of Jim Grossman
photo courtesy of Jim Grossman

The highlight reel: 

Our first ever Rip-a-Thon set a high bar. The athletes ended up covering 1,711 Kilometers and 1,860,100 vertical feet (perhaps more, had it not been for a finicky rope tow) over three days. For reference, 1711 KM is roughly equivalent to skiing from Ketchum to the Southern-most tip of Alaska; covering 1,860,100 vertical feet is approximately equal to traveling from sea level to the summit of Mount Everest 64 times. The athletes covered all this terrain, and while they were at it, raised $106,000—over double the initial goal—for SVSEF.  

photo courtesy of Heather Black
photo courtesy of Heather Black
photo courtesy of Craig Wolfrom

The Mini World Cup Team stole the title of champion fundraisers, raising the most of any team and earning them a well-deserved pizza-party at Rotarun with the Rotarippers. In their two-hour shift, 42 athletes skied 168,000 vertical feet. Liv Harrington takes the title of top individual fundraiser, and Charlotte Osgood recruited the highest number of fundraising contributors. 

And of course, we would be remiss not to mention the highlight of Bjorn Halvorson—in the proper spirit of the well-rounded, if perhaps slightly foolhardy, SVSEF athlete—throwing a backflip on Nordic skis.   

photo courtesy of Jim Grossman

Game On, meanwhile, raised $200,000 toward the event’s goal of $250,000; however, donations remain open for the rest of the year. Nearly 500 households tuned in for the Game On livestream, and approximately 300 people got into the Game Dinner spirit with “To-Goat” dinners prepared by Warfield. The performance of “12 days of SVSEF” ended in the successful underwriting of all almost all requested equipment; there are still wax benches available for underwriting. 

Finally, over 1,000 generous supporters gave to SVSEF in the weeks leading up to (and during) Game On and the Rip-a-Thon 

As put by Game On spectator and SVSEF board member Rebecca Waycott, “what an amazing and creative crew we have working with SVSEF! The virtual Game Dinner was both informative and entertaining, especially the hilarious 12 Days of Christmas performance. It reinforced for me, yet again, what an important organization SVSEF is for our Valley and our youth. I also loved that it took place at Rotarun, showcasing all the different SVSEF teams and sharing the joy on the faces of the participants. Thanks to all!”  

The name of the game…

As always, we owe every bit of success to our community. This production could not have been made possible without the fantastic community backing SVSEF. Thank you to all volunteers who delivered To-Goat boxes, tallied laps, took photos, and much more. Thank you to our venue sponsors, WaFD Bank (sponsored the Alpine Dual Slalom)Sturtevant’s (sponsored the air bag)Engel & Völkers Jones and Grover Teams (sponsored the XC Nordic Track)Thank you to our Champion Sponsors, First Lite and Wood River Properties, and thank you to our Supporting Sponsor, The BarnFinally, thank you to all who placed a bid, raised a paddle or underwrote from the 12 days of Christmas list. The generosity of our community is what makes everything we do possible. 

If you did not get the chance to tune in to the Game On livestream, you can still watch the program here. Missing carolers this Christmas season? Replay the “12 days of SVSEF” here.

Finally, if you missed your opportunity to donate but would still like to do so, you can here.