From the back of a van to a $1.9 million facility, adaptive sports have become core to Colorado skiing

Ignite Adaptive Sports and Eldora ski area are partnering on a new 12,000-square-foot, multi-million-dollar building set to open in 2024.

Kevin Wilson, operations manager for the Ignite adaptive skier program at Eldora ski area, navigates past the sit-ski equipment designed for adaptive users inside the program’s current headquarters Wednesday, May 24, 2023, in Nederland.
Hugh Carey/Colorado Sun

When Kevin Wilson was a kid growing up in Texas and Oklahoma he told his parents that if he didn’t get a college football scholarship he was going to move to Colorado to ski bum in the winter and raft guide in summer. 

It made sense, what with his dad being a coach of all trades — football, basketball, baseball — and Wilson his heir to the interscholastic sports dynasties of eight different counties. School sports were the family’s life save for weekends. Then they’d drive to their cabin in New Mexico to ski at Angel Fire and Red River resorts, flying downhill amid the scents of pinyon pine and Englemann spruce.  

But when Wilson was 16, he was in a car accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. There began a long period of recovery and rehabilitation, learning to use a wheelchair, and pain pills doctors prescribed to the tune of 300 every time he went in for a checkup, while failing to address the pain itself, he says. Through it all he managed to go to college, meet his wife and survive heavy partying and drinking. But he suffered from depression linked to his inability to move through the world as he once did.

Then, in a fit of inspiration in 2014, he and his wife came to Colorado. They loved it so much, they moved to Broomfield. Wilson had heard of Eldora ski area, but it wasn’t until 2018 that he found out about the Ignite adaptive ski program housed at the resort, and went there to try skiing after his wife signed him up. 

On a form his instructor gave him to list his goals, he wrote, “I want to be an independent skier and I want to work for Ignite.” 

It would take a couple years, but Wilson would achieve exactly what he wanted. He’s now a sit skier, a ski instructor and Ignite’s operations manager at an auspicious time for the non-profit.  

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