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Snow Lovers Get on Board for Breast Cancer


Thousands of pierced and tattooed 20-somethings gathered at the Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort in South Lake Tahoe on Saturday for the Boarding for Breast Cancer Snowboard and Music Festival. Now in its fourth year, the event has earned a reputation for being the snowboarding season's last hurrah, with plenty of beer and live music on tap. But the cause--breast cancer research and education--is serious: Statistics show that one woman in eight will be diagnosed with the disease in her lifetime.

Boarding for Breast Cancer was inspired by snowboard clothing designer Monica Steward. Diagnosed with breast cancer at age 28, Steward dedicated herself to raising awareness of the disease among young people. She died just three months before the first Boarding for Breast Cancer festival.

"When Monica announced she had breast cancer, her friends were shocked. To them, it was something that would affect their parents," said Brett Smith, one of the event's producers. "Our goal with this festival is to educate young women about what they can do to prevent breast cancer."

Eighty-degree temperatures sent many riders down the slopes in T-shirts and bikini tops as they listened to live music from Blink 182, Less Than Jake, the Alkaholics and Ozomatli. Pro snowboarders Michelle Taggart, Ross Powers, Shannon Dunn and Noah Brandon did flips and spins on the halfpipe, while breast cancer awareness groups at the mountain base spread the word about the disease.

Those who attended ranged from 14-year-old Kasia Mashanka of Santa Cruz, who called the festival "rad," to Jeff Kiernan, who drove up from Manhattan Beach just to see Blink 182.

"I didn't even know about the cause until I got here," he admitted.

But most seemed genuinely interested in raising breast cancer awareness.

"We came because this is an important issue for all females. But it's also very cool that all these guys came out," said Nga Dinh of San Jose.

"What can I say? I support breasts," quipped her friend, Jeff Scott.

Many festival participants also came for the music, with people dancing in clunky snowboard boots on the snow in front of the outdoor stage. Los Angeles' Ozomatli performed a happy set, with members of the band coming down into the crowd to play "Sunny Days" from the TV show "Sesame Street," as the audience sang along.

"We got our start playing benefits," explained Ozomatli guitarist Raoul Pacheco. "This [festival] is a way to help young women know how to take care of themselves and to give them information they can spread."

As the snow became slushy in the afternoon sun, people congregated at the lodge and exchanged bits of conversation like "Let's go get some grub."

Others waited in line to get autographs from the pro snowboarders. The festival has special meaning for Michelle Taggart, a member of the U.S. Olympic snowboarding team and winner of the halfpipe competition at this year's X-Games.

"It's a chance for me to honor Monica's memory. She was a good friend of mine," Taggart said. "It's also a day to educate people. . . ."

Since its inception, the festival has raised more than $237,000 for the cause. This year's proceeds will go to the Breast Cancer Fund, the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research.

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