SNOWSHOE MAGAZINE FEATURED ARTICLE:

Winter at the Crested Butte Adaptive Sports Center

Crested Butte is a historic Colorado town, nestled in the beautiful Gunnison Valley, about 28 miles north of Gunnison. Don’t be dissuaded by the fact that it’s off the beaten path since that is one of Crested Butte’s many charms. Accessibility is just a bit more of a challenge, but definitely worth the effort. Many Colorado visitors never get to see some of the hidden gems away from the interstate highway corridors. They are missing some of the most spectacular scenery, along with fascinating history, in Colorado.

While visiting Crested Butte, I had the opportunity to check out the Adaptive Sports Center (ASC), located at Crested Butte Mountain Resort. In my February article, I included a brief description of the Center.

The Adaptive Sports Center was founded in 1987 by President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalyn Carter, along with a group of Crested Butte locals. It was originally called the Physically Challenged Ski Program. During that first winter, 33 alpine ski lessons were taught. This winter, the Center expects to provide more than 2,300 lessons. In addition to alpine skiing, the Center offers snowboarding, ski biking, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and other activities through special arrangement, such as ice climbing and powder-cat skiing. The ASC has come a long way since its origin a quarter of a century ago.

More than 1,000 clients visit the Center annually, and more than 4,400 individual and group activities are provided. The age range extends from toddlers to octogenarians. To run a program of this size and scope, the ASC utilizes more than 30 professional instructors and nine full-time staff members. Numerous volunteers also assist with the many activities. During our visit to the Center last winter, it was a virtual beehive of activity.

People come to the Center from all over the United States and some foreign countries. The breakdown by disability includes amputees, burn survivors, cognitive impairment, neuromuscular disorders, orthopedic, paralysis and clients with visual impairment.

Adaptive sports programs are quite costly to operate. Instructor-participant ratios are, out of necessity, very low – usually one to one. The adaptive equipment can also be very expensive. The cost of the programs would be prohibitive for many clients if they had to pay for all of the actual costs. Fortunately, the ASC is able to subsidize some of the costs. That is reflected in their rates. In addition, some scholarship assistance is available for those requiring additional help. You can contact the Center by email: info@adaptivesports.org or visit www.adaptivesports.org for more detailed information.

Needless to say, I was interested in the inclusion of snowshoeing at the Center. Erin English, director of marketing and communications at ASC, informed me that snowshoeing is available to individuals, families, and groups through the ASC. One such program, the Roger Pepper Adventure Camp for Teenage Burn Survivors, has become a popular offering at the Center.

The next scheduled Roger Pepper Adventure Camp will take place January 15- 21, 2012. Allison Massari founded the camp in 1999, after she was involved in a horrific automobile accident. She named the camp after Roger Pepper, a bystander who pulled her out of the flaming wreckage. The camp has grown over the years, so that it’s now offered in the summer, as well as the winter. If you would like to learn more about Allison’s amazing story, visit her website: www.allisonmassari.com.

While alpine skiing and snowboarding are the main attractions at the winter Roger Pepper Camps; snowshoeing, backcountry hut trips and ice climbing have now been added to the mix as well. Some of the photos included in this article were taken at a snowshoe outing last winter. I can’t think of a better way to get young people involved in such healthy and fun outdoor activities. Given the physical and emotional trauma that many of them have faced, this is a most worthy venture and, hopefully, will continue for many years.

As is true of snowshoeing in general, it’s one option at the ASC that is easier to learn and more affordable than skiing and snowboarding. For some clients, these are major considerations. Snowshoes do not have to be adapted in any way and snowshoeing can accommodate a wide range of disabilities, from burn survivors to amputees, to those with traumatic brain injuries. There is certainly the potential for expanding snowshoeing for more individuals and families visiting the Center. Sometimes, people will try snowshoeing when they take a brief respite from skiing – and that may be all it takes to keep them coming back to enjoy this sport.

The Adaptive Sports Center will be celebrating its 25th Anniversary in 2012. The number of clients and activities has grown tremendously over the years. According to client surveys, an overwhelming majority of participants felt that their experience at the ASC enhances their physical and emotional well-being and increases their self-confidence. The ASC and Brigham Young University recently conducted a more formal study to examine the long-lasting effects of adaptive sports participation on quality of life. The results of the study indicated that the Center’s programs reduced depression as well as tension and confusion for clients.

As mentioned earlier, one of the biggest challenges faced by the ASC is funding the costly programs. Numerous fundraisers are conducted to aid in this area. They include special events such as an annual golf tournament and gala dinner. Clients who have visited the Center have also contributed to the ASC. More information on giving opportunities is available by visiting the ASC website.

As part of the 25th Anniversary celebration, the ASC is offering a special promotion to current and new participants: 25 percent off individual ski or snowboard lessons from February 1-17, 2012.

When visiting Crested Butte, stop by and visit the Adaptive Sports Center. You’ll come away impressed by a top-quality program run by a friendly and knowledgeable staff.

All snowshoeing photos by Kurt Reise. Ski biking photo by Pat Bittle.

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About Jim Fagan

Jim Fagan was born and raised in Florida, has lived in Texas for 38 years and loves to snowshoe. You figure it out. He and his wife Liz are both in their late 60s, early 70s and are about to embark on their 10th season of snowshoeing. They hope to venture beyond the friendly confines of Colorado and New Mexico - perhaps to Utah, California, and Oregon. Keep checking Snowshoemag.com for reports on their retired senior adventures.

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