Greg Smith loved to ski.
The competitions he was invited to around the country were proof enough, but perhaps the biggest testament of Greg’s passion for the sport was through the kids he helped along the way.
“He would stop what he was doing in the park when he would see kids trying to do something, go up, introduce himself and say ‘hey, let me give you a hand.’ He’d give them some pointers and spend half his day doing that,” said Steve Smith, Greg’s father.
Greg loved to teach so it’s fitting that proceeds from his memorial competition, the Seventh Annual Buckle Up Big Air, will go to teaching economically disadvantaged kids how to ski and snowboard. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Sierra Education Foundation to help economically disadvantaged kids in our community learn to ski and ride.
This year’s annual Buckle Up ski and snowboard slopestyle will be held Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort. Competitors can register at the Aspen Cafe at 7:15 a.m. Practice starts at 8:30 a.m., and the competition and riders’ meeting begins at 10:30 a.m. The 45-minute jams will be judged on creativity and style.
Greg, a former Sierra-at-Tahoe freeskier, was one of top freeriders in the basin before he died in a car collision on Tahoe Boulevard in 2006.
“He was 16 at the time and he was a passenger in the car,” Steve Smith said. “The girl driving was messing around and rolled the car three times, and he was the unlucky one.”
Of the five in the car, Greg was the only one to die.
Steve Smith set out to make sure it never happened again. He started Buckle Up Big Air not only as a celebration of what his son loved, but also as an educational platform for the youth who attend. The point is to heighten awareness about reckless driving.
“What it boils down to is we’re just trying to keep our kids alive so they don’t kill themselves in cars,” Steve Smith said. “If we save one then I think it’s all worthwhile.”
So far it’s working.
“To date, Greg was the last teenager to die in a car accident in South Lake Tahoe,” Steve Smith said.
Steve Smith also started up a Start Smart high school program with the CHP that educates kids on driving safety.
“So with the CHP, the Start Smart program and this event, we’re going to take a little credit for not losing any more kids,” Steve Smith said. “We were losing about three kids a year up here and then Greg was the last one to die.”
Steve Smith and Sierra-at-Tahoe encourages people of all levels to come out Saturday to celebrate Greg’s life and have a good time on the slopes.
Registration for amateur divisions costs $15 and $25 for open divisions. All competitors must have a season pass or lift ticket, but discount competitor tickets will be sold for $40. Spectator tickets will cost $56.