Disability 101: Why you should care, part 2 | SummitDaily.com

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Disability 101: Why you should care, part 2

By SANDY LAHMANN

Pardon me, but in this election year I can’t resist: “It’s about the economy, stupid!” Sorry, I just couldn’t let that opportunity pass.

In my last column, we considered why it’s important to take the time and effort to continue reading Disability 101 and really understand what I’m talking about. In that column I spoke about the increasing number of disabled veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. However, there’s another reason. It’s about the economy … OK, yeah, you get it.

Here in Summit County, our economy is significantly impacted by disabled athletes coming up to participate in a variety of adaptive outdoor activities. I’ve gathered some figures to help you get an idea of what kind of impact I’m talking about. We don’t have a straightforward study with exact numbers to offer you, but we do have enough other figures to help us see the bigger picture.

During the 2006-2007 ski season, Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC) served 851 disabled snow riders at their Breckenridge and Keystone sites. These 851 individuals participated in a total of 2,780 skier days. They came from 36 states and nine foreign countries.

In addition to snow sports, BOEC offers a Wilderness Program. During the period from October 2006 through September 2007, 939 disabled individuals took part in a total of 3,582 programming days. Oh, the math opportunities! Get out your calculators!

Let’s expand our view. BOEC is the local chapter of Disabled Sports USA (DSUSA) and hosts at Breckenridge the annual Hartford Ski Spectacular, the largest adaptive snow sports event in the nation.

The military’s annual SnoFest ski weekend held in Keystone now includes disabled soldiers. This year there were disabled skiers involved in 36 Hours of Keystone. The numbers are starting to add up.

How much money are we talking about? Let’s borrow some numbers from Challenge Aspen, a disabled sports organization located in the Aspen Valley.

Houston Cowan, the CEO and co-founder of Challenge Aspen, reports that they conducted a survey during the 2002-2003 ski season, asking their disabled athletes, and the family and friends who came with them, about their spending in the Valley while participating in Challenge Aspen winter programs. Air fare and fees paid to Challenge Aspen were not included. Everything else, such as lift tickets and rentals for family and friends, lodging, restaurants and shopping, was included.

Their survey revealed that each of their athletes came with an average of 4.5 family members and friends. During that ski season, approximately $1.2 million was spent in the Valley by Challenge Aspen clients (472 athletes who participated in 1,984 skier days) and the others who came with them.

Now let’s compare. Challenge Aspen with 1, 984 skier days compared to BOEC with 2,780 skier days. Add in BOEC’s Wilderness Program, the Hartford Ski Spectacular, SnoFest and 36 Hours of Keystone. Figure in inflation for the four years difference. I wish my daughter were here to do the math for me, but she left for college. So I’ll let you boggle your mind with it all.

These disabled athletes become marketing tools. They return to their homes and recommend our ski resorts, hotels, restaurants, and shops (or don’t recommend them) to others.

The disabled community has many resources, including magazines and web sites, in which they share their traveling experiences with each other. They are more likely to come to our community for their vacation if they have heard from other disabled travelers that we are accessible and friendly to those with disabilities. Then there’s a snowball effect. It’s about the economy.