Sunday, December 21, 2008

Heroes of the Hills – Breckenridge, Colorado, December 2008

We stayed in Breckenridge for five nights and six days. The visit was exquisite, even though the purpose was serious. Charles and I came here to join the 106 wounded warriors, and 700 other volunteers, disabled athletes, and others who care about snow sports and try to share them with as wide a range of people as possible. This is the 21st year of the Hartford Ski Spectacular, and the second year we have participated.

First, thanks to Vail Associates, and the Beaver Run Resort and Convention Center, which hosts the event. You could not ask for better run, more convenient facilities. It is huge and self-contained. The condos, hotel rooms, meeting halls, ski and snowboard rental facilities, and ski lifts are right on the premises or a few steps away. In addition to the free Beaver Run shuttle bus, there is also an efficient system of free public buses outside the door if you want to go into the lovely, brightly lit town of Breckenridge. There is easy access to the super market, bank, or restaurants. You can also ski into town if you want, especially if you miss the trails that cut back to Beaver Run, as happened to me at least twice! Like any luxury property, it is not cheap, but the condos are large with kitchens, and can accommodate several people. The resort has generous discounts for this event. You can cook in and then relax in the pool and hot tubs or spas. I always advise visitors to look for the package deals, which can also include airfare, rentals, lodging, and lifts. That is the way to make a trip affordable and fun.

Fun and excitement were the operative words for the next few days at Breckenridge. The Wounded Warriors learned to ski or snowboard quickly, or honed their skills if they had done so before. Many raced in the organized events. Some are paralympic champions. There were blind skiers, double and triple amputees, and some with spinal cord or brain injuries. They all made it up and down the moutain several times. Some did so on their own; others were taught or assisted by instructors or companions. Everyone was friendly and behaved with a true sense of cooperation.

We were blessed with good conditions. Sunday was marvelous – sunny and warm. I loved cruising down the wide, groomed trails, especially Cashier, Bonanza, Country Boy, and others. I joined up with two marvelous “Mountain Ambassadors,” Trish Williamson and Barb Sanger, who showed me around and made the day! Always try to ski with Ambassadors if you can – especially in a large, unfamiliar area.
Monday began warm and overcast, and then a light snow developed which persisted through the night and deposited 8 inches of fresh powder. It was light enough to permit good visibility, and enjoy the trails. It was not accompanied by the driving winds we encountered last year. Tuesday was legendary “Breckenfridge” weather, with the temperatures bitter cold. We tried a few runs, but spent much of the day learning, writing, and hanging out with the warriors and their friends.
My husband Charles has the technical background and participated in some of the training sessions. He takes over now:
The Hartford Challenge is a synergism of adaptive teachers, adaptive learners, and adaptive equipment developers. This year the emphasis was on mentoring. I was struck by the number of adaptive athletes who have become formal or informal instructors and equipment developers. There were a number of older veterans who came at their own expense from all over the country to mentor the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, and civilians who mentored both military and civilians. I concentrated on sit ski clinics and ironically met Mike King and Pam Lenhart of Baltimore Adaptive and a number of other mid-Atlantic folks (like the Wintergreen and Liberty instructors who we have written about in last year’s columns) who came here to teach and learn.

Charles and I found this to be an extremely worthwhile event. It is sad they are necessary, but that is the realism of the times. As long as there are wounded warrior and adaptive ski and snowboard events, we hope we can be there to support them.

Mountain Sports Club report provided by field correspondents Connie Lawn and Charles Sneiderman