THE CLUB AT SPRUCE PEAK’S BIGGEST EVENT OF THE SEASON IS PART SKI RACE, PART CONCERT— AND ALL FOR A GOOD CAUSE.
By Rachel Stearns
By Rachel Stearns
If the end of the holiday hubbub has you heading for hibernation, you may want to wait a little longer—the season’s most
epic event is yet to come. On January 28th, the 18th annual Founder’s Cup ski race wakes up Spruce Peak, and it’s not to be missed. “It’s one of those weekends that everyone has on their calendar,” says Sam Gaines, president of Spruce Peak. Here’s the scoop on this one-of-a-kind celebration of the arts, family and friends, and outdoor adventures.
The first Founder’s Cup was organized in 2004 as a way to show appreciation for the founding members of the Club at Spruce Peak. Almost two decades ago, they were the first families to invest in the community—long before the Lodge, ice rink, golf course, and high speed lifts existed at Spruce Peak. Their contributions also led to the creation of the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center, a nonprofit arts organization and theater.
In the early days of the Founder’s Cup, the original 35 founders were celebrated with a family ski race and dinner. Over the years, the Club grew (there are now around 350 members) and the Spruce Peak team decided to revamp the event to include all members, while still recognizing the founders’ achievements.
“Spruce Peak is much more than just a real estate development at the bottom of a ski mountain—it’s a multifaceted community that cares about arts, culture, and giving back to the town of Stowe,” Gaines says. “So we transformed the Founders Cup into something that really embodies the spirit of the Club and what we’re trying to do here, which is to create connections, provide an elevated Vermont experience, and have fun.”
With that mission in mind, the Founder’s Cup relaunched in 2020, focusing on raising
money for the performing arts center— including its educational fund, which enables children from around the region to experience world-class programming at Spruce Peak.
The new version of the Founder's Cup includes a ski race captained by celebrity athletes (more on that in a minute), followed by a star-studded rock concert. It drums up excitement around the performing arts center and Stowe’s snowsports culture, while continuing to honor the vision and contributions of the Club’s earliest members.
While some might take the Cup competitively, for many Club members it’s the first time they’ve ever sped through the gates. Fortunately, they’re guided by world-famous skiers. In anticipation of the event, members sign up to join teams led by a mix of both local and internationally-renowned skiing and snowboarding stars. Past participants include Olympic gold medalists like Picabo Street, Donna Weinbrecht, and Ross Powers.
But the best part actually takes place well before the moment the racers shoot down one of their two runs. Club members spend the morning leading up to the race hitting the slopes alongside famed athletes, hearing their stories during chairlift rides, and introducing the greats to some of their own favorite runs at Stowe.
Finally, before taking their first official run, the captains offer tips to their teammates so they can zoom down Comp Hill with a new boost of confidence.
It’s not about the competition so much as the camaraderie; everyone wins when Club members and athletes alike gather for an apres-ski celebration in the Alpine Clubhouse—complete with a silent auction, raffle, and hors d’oeuvres prepared by Seth Gallant, the Club’s executive chef.
Rounding out the evening is a concert, which often features musicians who enjoy shredding the slopes as much as Vermonters. (You may even bump into them out on the mountain!)
Past musical guests have included Stefan Lessard, members of Guster, DJ Logic, and rock band O.A.R. “When you have a band that sells out Madison Square Garden playing a 400-seat theater, it’s pretty impactful,” Gaines says. He hopes it reminds people of the power of a quality musical experience and, in turn, the importance of the daily programs and operations of the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center.
The performing arts center benefits the greater Stowe community by providing
discounted tickets for local school groups and attracting top talent—somewhat of a rarity in this not-so-metropolitan area—with its excellent facilities. It brings multicultural arts experiences to Northern Vermont—from jazz, gospel, and symphony concerts to magic, comedy, and dance performances. The Founder’s Cup is the performing arts center’s biggest fundraiser, which is no coincidence, Gaines says, because the Club and the performing arts center were tied together from the beginning.
So, what do you get when you combine a premier arts venue, Olympic medalists, and a rock band? A fundraiser that’s actually fun. “As far as charity events, there’s not many where you get to ski down a mountain and then go to an awesome concert at night,” Gaines says. “It beats a black-tie soiree.”
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