It’s a festival…
Five months after Dan Prater died suddenly and unexpectedly in October 1979, his close friend and attorney, Paul Puckett, created the first-ever Dan Prater Memorial Cup in March 1980.
Relocated from Kansas, Prater devoted much of his free time and financial support to help the local junior ski racers compete on the regional racing circuit. This year marks its 34th year of racing events in which 250 junior alpine ski racers are expected to compete. The festivities are set to begin Thursday, February 20, and will run through Sunday, February 23. The Prater Cup is a U14 Junior Championship Qualifier event for athletes aged 11 through 13.
Stephanie Prater is instrumental in carrying on her father’s tradition and the Cup. She notes that the races will take place mostly on the front side of Crested Butte Mountain Resort, on International, and will include Slalom, Giant Slalom and downhill.
On Thursday, February 20, from 3 to 4:30 p.m., the Nations’ Flag Opening Ceremony gets under way, from Warming House Hill to the base area, with all of the nations’ flags being carried and their anthems played. “We call it the Cookie Crackup welcome ceremony… it’s a tradition that the late Bill Sweitzer started,” Prater says about another long-time local supporter.
The athletes are assigned to their “nation” team and Prater explains that there are 16 nation teams; however, organizers have had to continually add nations because the number of athletes competing keeps growing.
The teams are balanced in talent, Prater spells out. “We choose the best ski racer, the fastest and the slowest so that each team has an equal opportunity to be the top nation team,” she says of the racer distribution. “Throughout the week, you’ll see the athletes showing country support by making t-shirts, capes, painting their faces, all of which earns them Prater Points to fill up their passports … The team that earns the most points is awarded the top team.”
All racers participate for all three days as part of their race circuit. “The kids take this race very seriously, because if they don’t do well here, their season could be almost over,” Prater says.
The kids come from all over New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado to compete. Prater says there are three local racers this year—Story Crossett, Tanner Perkins, and Mya Schaefer.
The Prater Cup is the last race event before the Junior Olympics in Winter Park and the young athletes will find out on Sunday, February 23, if they’ve qualified when their cumulative points are added up for the entire year’s circuit.
Prater also points out that it’s been three or four years since local kids competed in the Prater Cup but the Mountain Sports Team, run by CBMR, has really pushed the race discipline in the last couple of years.
Prater also feels, “The basis of all these other ski disciplines starts with a ski racing background. You can’t look at any kid who hasn’t gone on to be a successful pro ski athlete, or pro skier, who didn’t have a race background. You start as a ski racer—it’s the foundation under your feet—and you evolve into all those other disciplines like Big Mountain, Slopestyle, Park and Pipe.”
The Prater Cup is more than just a race. Prater says, “Most kids go to a race weekend and it’s quick and they go home. The Prater Cup is more like a ski racing festival. It’s the greatest race that kids go to the entire year and it’s their favorite.”
With 750 people rolling into town for the event—athletes, parents, siblings, coaches, and friends—Prater hears all the feedback, from the opportunities the race brings to how enjoyable and friendly Crested Butte is.
There’ll be a benefit dinner, drink specials and a silent auction at Maxwell’s on Elk Avenue downtown from 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, February 22, and of course there’s big screen viewing of the Olympics.
For the young athletes, there’s tons of schwag, compliments of local businesses and private donors. “The local support that the Prater Cup receives is beyond what I could have ever imagined,” Prater says appreciatively. “Every kid gets a fabulous goody bag, and a Prater Cup t-shirt with all the local sponsors. I get goggles and poles, skateboards to skis, donated and this is a critical part of what the Prater stands for. It’s not about how fast you go, it’s about showing team sportsmanship. They make friendships that last a lifetime.”
Spectate: Opening ceremonies begin 8 a.m., Friday, February 20 on International, and continue all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday. You can watch from anywhere along the rope line of the racecourse, or at the base of the Westwall Lift. Also visit Prater Cup on Facebook.