Breckenridge’s marquee adaptive sports event marks 28th year | SummitDaily.com

Breckenridge’s marquee adaptive sports event marks 28th year

Summit Daily Staff Report
news@summitdaily.com

In this 2012 file photo, Mark Wellman, left, and Craig Kennedy, right, preparde for a day of adaptive Nordic skiing at Frisco Nordic Center.

Breckenridge is the site of an intrepid and high-profile assemblage of winter sports athletes this week — a gathering where the top honors aren't trophies or medals, but perhaps the return of a sense of autonomy and a boost of self-confidence.

Begun on Monday, Nov. 30 and running through Sunday, Dec. 6, Disabled Sports USA (DSUSA) is hosting its annual Ski Spectacular, sponsored by Connecticut-based insurance and investment firm The Hartford. The weeklong event — the nation's largest winter sports festival for individuals with disabilities — is being staged at both Breckenridge Ski Resort and Beaver Run Resort, offering a range of activities for upwards of 800 participants.

Those in attendance — from first-time skiers all the way up to U.S. Paralympic gold medalists Alana Nichols (alpine skiing, wheelchair basketball, paracanoe) and Evan Strong (snowboard cross) — will take part in activities such as alpine and Nordic skiing and snowboarding, as well as learn-to programs in sled hockey, biathlon and curling. The Spectacular will also feature training for instructors in the most up-to-date ski and snowboard activities for those with disabilities.

Also joining in are more than 100 U.S. and British wounded servicemen and women, in addition to Boston Marathon bombing survivors. In many cases, such opportunities are central to an individual's physical and emotional healing after notable trauma.

"Adaptive sports played a prominent role in my recovery and rehabilitation process," said Will Reynolds, retired from the U.S. Army, in a news release. "Sports allowed me to regain confidence in my physical abilities, and I'm honored to return to The Hartford Ski Spectacular to give back to other wounded veterans."

Reynolds, a former U.S. Army Captain, lost his left leg in 2004 when he was struck by a makeshift explosive and has since become a mentor to young adaptive athletes — just the same injured military personnel who come through DSUSA's Warfighter Sports program as he did before them.

Recommended Stories For You

It's the 28th year of the event for DSUSA, the organization of which was founded in 1967, that provides opportunities for individuals with disabilities to help progress interpersonal skills, camaraderie, as well as some physical fitness through more than 30 summer and winter sports. DSUSA originally began as a program to serve Vietnam vets, and today, with support from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, has become one of the country's biggest multi-sport, multi-disability organizations, now with a network of community-based chapters 100-plus strong.

"The Hartford Ski Spectacular is an ideal event for individuals with disabilities to get world-class instruction in skiing and snowboard, and is just one of the many examples of how our athletes are achieving their goals and gaining independence through sports, post-injury, said Kirk Bauer, DSUSA's executive director, in a news release. "We are again thrilled to … offer this premier event and kick off the winter season."

For more specifics about the Ski Spectacular, check out http://skispec.org, and to learn more about Disabled Sports USA, visit their website at, http://www.disabledsportsusa.org.