LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) -It’s been ten years since a 20-year-old Las Vegas man lost his life in a rare accident on Lee Canyon’s slopes, but a decade later Chris Ruby’s memory lives on in the annual snowboard race that bears his name.

And through the race, so does the legacy Chris left behind with his final act, because it encourages others to follow his lead.

The Ruby family has been skiing Lee Canyon for most of their lives.

“I’ve been skiing here since 1972 when I was a kid, learning how to ski up here,” Jeff Ruby shares. “I met my wife up here, I was working as a ski patroller on my days off from the fire department…that was about 34 years ago”

Chris Ruby died in a snowboarding fall at just 20. His final donation helped 90+ patients survive their illnesses.(Courtesy: Sherry Ruby)

“Since they were little, little kids we took them out camping and fishing and skiing. They learned how to ski when they were really little, then they decided they wanted to learn how to snowboard…the dark side,” he laughingly adds

Chris went on to snowboard for the rest of his short life. But at 20, Chris suffered a hard fall at Lee Canyon. While falls aren’t uncommon, even for veteran snowboarders, the way Chris landed was. He died from blunt force trauma to the chest.

“He was an exceptional young man. He had a great sense of humor, he was respectful, he was, you know, he had manners He had a good work ethic.”

He was also an organ donor.

“Chris and I had watched a documentary about a man who had received a face transplant and we were really amazed by the documentary,” Jeff told us. “But we had talked about it as a family and discussed that when we leave, we can’t take anything from this body with us, so we would definitely like to help whoever, because you never know what that could do for somebody’s life.”

Chris's family, shown at a previous Ruby Cup, continue to advocate for organ donation
Chris’s family, shown at a previous Ruby Cup, continue to advocate for organ donation(Courtesy: Nevada Donor Network)

And make a difference Chris did, completely changing the life of a five-year-old boy with congenital heart defects.

“So he ended up getting Chris’s heart valves and she said that that did the trick for him…and it made it to where he was well again. That’s really inspiring, you know…that young man, who knows? He’ll grow up and contribute to society and you know, he’ll have a life, whereas before it was questionable so…”

“You know, Chris helped or save more than 90 recipients so that’s pretty impactful.”

Jim Seely is the marketing director at Lee Canyon. The resort has proudly hosted the Chris Ruby Cup for the past nine years.

“When something hits so close to home, you know, we wanted to do something for it, to create some kind of legacy, some kind of lasting impression to celebrate Chris’s life,” said Seely.

Lee Canyon wanted to host a race to benefit any charity the Ruby family selected. They appropriately enough, chose the Nevada Donor Network.

“When one person says yes to organ, eye, and tissue donation, they can impact the lives of 75 or more,” said Christina Gilbert, who’s with the Network. “This is life-saving, this is life-healing, this is life-enhancing. So just one person hearing his story can truly can bring that ultimate gift to someone else, and it’s very, very important.”

More than 100,000 Americans are currently on transplant waiting lists – over 600 of those patients live here in Nevada.

“The gift is saying yes, when one person registers you do bring hope to those people that are waiting,” said Gilbert. “This is an imperative need, on average 17 people pass away waiting each day, and we don’t want to see that happen at Nevada Donor Network, so we do our best to give Nevadans every opportunity to register to become donors at events like the Chris Ruby Cup.”

A snowboarder on the course during a previous Chris Ruby Cup at Lee Canyon
A snowboarder on the course during a previous Chris Ruby Cup at Lee Canyon(Courtesy: Nevada Donor Network)

Seely says the race is the perfect place to recruit new donors.

“Here we are supporting outdoor recreation, and the guests that come up here are active, active individuals that spend a good deal of time outdoors, that are fairly fit and healthy, and it’s important to broadcast that they can help someone because of who they are.”

Jeff Ruby agrees.

“To us, it made a lot of sense, and that’s why we discussed it as a family, so there was no question…you know, it’s hard no matter what, you lose a child, it’s hard, you know, it’s hard to lose a loved one. But we celebrate, and the fact that, especially for Nevada Donor Network, for us to partner up with them and try to raise awareness it’s helpful to know that people get educated about organ and eye and tissue donation”’

And Lee Canyon continues to assist in the education process.

“This is the ten-year anniversary of Chris’s passing, and every year we definitely want to light the candle and make it shine bright for Chris’s legacy,” said Seely.

9th Annual Chris Ruby Memorial Cup

January 13, 2024

11 am – 2:30 pm

Lee Canyon

$20 registration fee – free for organ donors

Visit the Nevada Donor Network website to register for the race or become an organ donor


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