First, let’s clear something up: despite the hype, SkiTAM’s not 10 years old. "It’s older," retired cable exec Ginny Kaus says. She should know; for years Kaus went down hills at SkiTAM, which had been a one-day social event for programmers and operators in the area run by CTAM’s Rocky Mountain chapter. After a meagerly attended SkiTAM 11 years back, Kaus decided, "it’s a shame so few people are enjoying the beauty of the Rockies, this should be a national event." If Kaus is SkiTAM’s mother, ESPN’s Steve Raymond surely is its father. Despite the odds, Kaus and Raymond felt the tiny social outing could become a signature event and a national draw. It was Raymond’s idea to make it a fundraiser for the cash-strapped U.S. Disabled Ski Team. Armed with grand plans, volunteers and a dream, the two approached CTAM chief Char Beales and board chairman Chuck Ellis for a $3,000 seed loan—"bless their hearts, they said yes," Kaus recalls. A decade later SkiTAM’s sold out its corporate sponsorships every year, raising $2 million for the Disabled Team. But SkiTAM isn’t special for that reason. The key to its success is that members of the Disabled Team join cable’s skiers for the event’s three days, socializing, eating and racing with them. "We get to know them not as disabled people, but as real athletes and people," says Raymond, a SkiTAM co-chair for eight years. There’s never a problem with attendance: "People come back each year to reconnect with the athletes," he adds. With all of cable’s corporate cutbacks, SkiTAM remains strong because of these emotional connections. Cable Hall of Famer and SkiTAM supporter Trygve Myhren nails it: "I brought my kids to SkiTAM because I doubt they would have been exposed to the life lessons and examples of courage we’ve seen there." Quite right. (SkiTAM 2005 runs April 7-10 in Vail, Colo.)

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