Q&A with Peak Performers snowboard runner-up Amy Purdy
DILLON — As a co-founder of Adaptive Action Sports with her husband, Daniel Gale, Amy Purdy has created in Summit County the world’s leading community and training ground for para snowboarders. A two-time Paralympic medalist herself, Purdy has attracted many aspiring snowboarders to the county, some of whom have realized their own Paralympic glory for Team USA.
How did you and the Adaptive Action Sports community end up calling Summit County home?
We moved out here in 2011. We had been living in South Lake Tahoe, running Adaptive Action Sports there, but we found ourselves out here every winter leading up to 2011. We came out for (United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association) Nationals, and at that time, we were running the adaptive division for USASA. We’d run a weeklong adaptive camp leading into nationals and fell in love with it out here.
When it was announced in 2011 para snowboarding became part of the 2014 Paralympics, we knew the place we wanted to be and train these athletes leading into the games was Copper Mountain.
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Describe the growth of the adaptive snowboard scene between then and now.
Leading up to 2011, it was me and five to 10 other snowboarders. When I’d do a World Cup, I’d be one of two girls who showed up to compete. … At that point, we realized eight countries were involved in para snowboarding, so we all came together and did a big push to get it into the Paralympics. … Daniel started working to get adaptive snowboarding into ESPN’s X Games. He organized and ran it and ran an adaptive boardercross event, and this was the biggest course in the world. It was amazing. We handpicked the top athletes, adaptive snowboarders to show up and compete, to basically use this as a platform to share what these athletes are capable of. A couple of months later, we got word snowboarding was added to the 2014 Paralympics.
Now here in Summit County, we are the premier organization for training Paralympic athletes for the U.S. team. We even had the Japanese team training with us last year. We have a young wounded veteran who just lost her leg. She’s working with us. We’ve created basically a pipeline to the Paralympic program. … A small group of 15 full-time athletes moved to Colorado to try to make the U.S. snowboard team for the 2022 Olympics. For 2018, we were able to train eight out of 13 athletes. All together, our organization was able to bring home six Paralympic medals for our country and Team USA.
We just knew we wanted to support anybody who had the dream of snowboarding who had a disability. So we bought a house in Silverthorne with that in mind, a three-story house. It has different sections, and we can have up to six athletes living with us on and off throughout the season.
How does the Adaptive Action Sports office serve as a hangout spot for these athletes?
Pretty much on any given morning in the winter, we have an office full of athletes that come in, and they gear up. We have a tune shop in there, a ton of prosthetic parts and pieces. We’re always working on different prosthetics in there, different snowboard demos in there. … We also do athlete meetings in there and team reviews after practice. It’s become a cool headquarters for these athletes who want to not just be involved with competitive snowboarding, but want to be part of the lifestyle.
What’s your proudest moment as a rider?
Standing in the start gate at the 2014 Paralympics. Of course, winning a bronze in Sochi and a silver in Pyeongchang were amazing experiences, but getting ready to drop into the first competition for the Paralympics, everything came back to me, everything I went through in my life — falling in love with snowboarding at 14, knowing it’d be something I’d do the rest of my life, losing my legs, building legs to snowboard again, pushing to get into the Paralympics, building the program and being able to represent the country.
How have you persevered through the new health issues you’ve endured this past year?
At the end of last February, I was diagnosed with a major blood clot down my left leg. It was basically an overuse injury from the fact that I was wearing a carbon fiber prosthetic leg. The prosthetic was pressing into the artery when I didn’t even know it. … I had four surgeries to try and remove it, and the rest of the year I’ve been off my left leg. We definitely fought to save my life this year — a lot of rehab and therapy, trying to gain as much blood flow, because my whole circulatory system rearranged itself in my leg. Yes, I’ve been knocked off my feet again, but I’ve also come really far. I’m taking baby steps, not fully walking yet. But as soon as a I can walk, I know I can snowboard.
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