Defending Skier X champ races for a cause – By Nick Cunkelman
Last year, Chris Del Bosco lit up Aspen en route to Winter X Games gold in Skier X. This year, he hopes to do the same for a country where snowfall makes world news, and whose last Winter Olympic team featured one cross-country skier.
By partnering with the Denver-born company Nokero, who make the world’s only solar powered light bulb, Del Bosco has found not only a sponsor but also an ally in charity. Nokero—which is short for “No Kerosene,” as in the polluting substance often burnt for light by those without electricity—has teamed up with the defending Skier X gold medalist in a program called Ski 4 Light, where Del Bosco aims to raise $20,000 in donations and thus deliver 1,000 solar-powered bulbs to Kenya.
“I wanted to find something worthwhile,” said Del Bosco by phone as he drove to Aspen on Wednesday for ESPN Winter X Games 15, which run from January 27-30. “And this was a perfect fit for me, I was looking for something to add a little bit of meaning tomy skiing.”
In addition to donations, Del Bosco and Nokero have pledged an additional 1,000 bulbs if he can successfully defend his title. And as if to remind the world of their project, Del Bosco’s helmet itself will feature a solar panel and battery powered-LED with the word “Nokero” emblazoned across the front, he says, “like a sticker.” Del Bosco will also travel to Kenya in July to bring the bulbs as part of the Bold Leaders exchange program, where American children visit Kenya while Kenyans come to explore the outdoors in the US in an effort to improve relations between the two countries—one bountifully electrified and the other were many still use kerosene lamps.
“We never really think about it,” said Del Bosco. “We turn on a light switch and we have lights and a lot of these people live off the grid.”
Nokero’s solar-powered bulb inventor Stephen Katsaros, a friend of Del Bosco’s from back when they were both living in Vail, said that although the company was originally skeptical of the partnership, when the charity side came up, things began moving fast.
“Chris is just a wonderful person, I think that we came up with this really sweet idea,” Katsaros said.
That idea (the helmet) was then hatched on the first say of the new year, four days later engineers began building the model and after two prototypes it’s ready—like Del Bosco—to go at X. Indeed, as if on top of Del Bosco’s long road to the sport—he was kicked off the US Alpine team at age 17 for a positive marijuana test and in 2006 made a last-chance qualifier to Winter X where he went on to win the bronze—Del Bosco also had surgery last May after the Vancouver Winter Olympics on a 35% tear in the patella tendon of his left knee. He considered scrapping this season entirely, but after a strong rehabilitation in the fall currently sits at second in the World Cup standings and is ready for the main event in Aspen.
“It’s a big one, one I always look forward to racing,” he said. “This year I stepped it up and hopefully it’ll carry on through.”
Added Katsaros, “he went down the wrong path at one point, but he is where he is today because of hard work and stick-to-it-ness. He’s a great guy and he’s determined. He works so hard, he embodies a lot of the traits that I respect.”
And, to emphasize the goal of Ski 4 Life, Katsaros notes that 1.6 billion people in the world live without electricity.
“How incomprehensible is that for the average Westerner?” he asks.
About as incomprehensible as a September snowstorm in Kenya.
*****To donate to Ski 4 Light, visit chrisdelbosco.com or nokero.com. Photos courtesy of nokero.com*****
Nick Cunkelman is a senior at Colby College in Waterville, ME who grew up skiing at Vermont’s Mad River Glen, a mere three-hour drive from his home in Acton, MA. His writing has appeared in The Colby Echo, The Jackson Hole News and Guide, and The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. For more photos, go to sport-write-shoot.tumblr.com.