Cool summer: Family to ski Argentina hills for charity

Girls, father will cover 19 hills, 1,800 miles

July 7, 2010

Shorewood — This summer, a Shorewood family plans to ski 19 Argentinean hills, a span of 1,800 miles, in 48 days while raising money for charity.

"The skiing adventure will be fun and interesting, but also difficult and challenging," said Micaela Gayner, 11, a fifth-grader at Atwater School in Shorewood. "It will be like a quest more than a vacation. We also wanted to tie in a charity because it would bring a greater good to other people rather than ourselves."

On July 11, the Gayner family will fly to Buenos Aires where they will then drive 1,500 miles south in an RV to Ushuaia. From there, they will start their ski odyssey at Wolfgang Wallner near the Beagle Channel and they'll continue north hitting multiple hills for several weeks. About halfway through their adventure, they'll stop in Junin de los Andes, where the office of their charity - Cruzada Patagonica - is located, to drop off donations and volunteer for a few days. From there, they'll finish their ski quest at Los Puquios near Aconcagua, where they'll drive back to Buenos Aires and fly home Aug. 29.

"There would be easier ways to design a trip to ski more, but this is a greater challenge and it benefits others," said Steve Gayner, the father who is a ski instructor and ski coach.

Steve, 46, has been to Argentina three times before; once when he was a climbing guide in Peru and Bolivia in college for a climbing expedition and twice in his early 20s to climb different mountains in Patagonia. His wife, Susan, 44, was born in Australia, but raised in Seattle, and will be coming for the final week of the ski trip. Daughter Aidan, 7, is a ski racer. Micaela, 11, has been skiing for the past eight years and has been a ski racer for the past five years.

Gathering pledges

The Gayners have been collecting pledges, donations and money from merchandise sales since March of this year with all of the proceeds going directly to Fundacion Cruzada Patagonica. This Argentina-based organization of 30 years fosters comprehensive development among rural populations through education and sustainable rural development, water access projects, improvements in productivity, alternative energies, artisanship and more. After searching numerous charities on the Internet, they picked this one not only because of the cause, but also because it was within their ski itinerary and a friend recommended it.

"We may be the first people to ever do this and raising money for charity excites us more than taking a comfortable ski trip," Steve said.

The family originally planned to ski in Chile, where they have friends, but after the earthquake, they decided on Argentina because it was not only a safer region to ski, but it was also close to their friends and a destination that the family had never been to before.

"As a parent, it would be a great educational experience for the girls rather than the trip being purely a personal or family pursuit," Steve said.

Planning a safe and enjoyable trip while also limiting the number of hills they ski in an effort to keep pledge costs down was a challenge all its own. If this trip goes well, they have some ideas for the future, but for this journey, Steve plans to make a self-produced documentary and hopes to turn it into a book.

"I'd like to thank our neighbors, family and friends for pledging because it's not only appreciated by my family, but it will be appreciated by (the charity) as well," Micaela said. "So far we've raised $1,300 with their help. We want the money to be put to good and important use. (By volunteering, we) will be able to report back on the difference the donations made. "

On the web

Monitor the Gayners' progress on the family's blog at

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