Wounded soldiers to ski, ride this week in Breck | SummitDaily.com

Wounded soldiers to ski, ride this week in Breck

NICOLE FORMOSAsummit daily news

Summit Daily/Brad OdekirkA disabled competitor rounds a gate on Peak 10 at Breckenridge Ski Resort during a past Hartford Ski Spectacular. Seventy-five soldiers and more than 600 other participants with disabilities will come together today in Breck for the week-long event.

BRECKENRIDGE – Christian Bagge re-learned to walk less than a month ago, after losing both legs while fighting the war in Iraq, but that hasn’t cracked his confidence in learning to ski this week in Breckenridge.”I think it’s going to be a blast,” Bagge said from his home in San Antonio, Texas. “I’m not intimidated that I’ve only been walking for three weeks. I lot of people limit themselves because of injuries – I think the only limitation we have is ourselves.”Bagge, 23, was six months into his overseas tour of duty with the National Guard when, on June 28, 2004, the enemy ambushed his platoon. There were two large explosions. The attack left him with injuries so severe that one leg had to be amputated above the knee and the other below the knee. A large laceration caused nerve damage in his left arm.

Bagge is one of 75 soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan who will participate this week in The Hartford Ski Spectacular at Breckenridge Ski Resort. The soldiers and their families will join more than 600 others with disabilities at the event, which begins today and runs through Dec. 11.Members of the U.S. Paralympic Team will pass on knowledge about ski racing to the group, as well as encouragement on living an active, productive life with a disability. Adaptive sports organizations, such as the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, will hold learn-to-ski and learn-to-ride clinics and demonstrate adaptive equipment.Bagge, now a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army, is not a foreigner to snow sports. He snowboarded in his home state of Oregon for five years before his injury, and spent one season as a snowboard instructor for the Special Olympics.Though he’s tried handbiking, seated volleyball and swimming during his recovery, he is ready to get back on the snow, which is precisely the point behind the Ski Spectacular, said Kirk Bauer, executive director of Disabled Sports USA and a disabled Vietnam veteran.

“It has been a great feeling for the past 18 years, to watch disabled people from all walks of life regain their confidence on the slopes and enjoy a sport that they love, or in some cases, to experience the exhilaration of snow sports for the very first time,” Bauer said. Sergeant First Class Norberto Lara, 33, said he was never interested in sports before he lost his right arm when a rocket propelled grenade tore through his vehicle more than a year ago, while the then-military police officer was carrying out a combat patrol in Iraq.While Lara is still a patient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C., he has been busy rock climbing, snowboarding, skiing and whitewater rafting – all sports he had never experimented with before coming home from the war.”It’s been really just amazing to experience all this other stuff I had no idea I could do,” Lara said during a telephone interview.

He’s never been to Breckenridge, and is looking forward to skiing and snowboarding while he is in town for the week. Ultimately, his goal is to become proficient enough in both sports so he can pass along his knowledge to others with disabilities. “I want to give to someone what someone’s given to me,” Lara said.Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13625, or at nformosa@summitdaily.com.