Challenge Aspen takes act to S. America | AspenTimes.com

Challenge Aspen takes act to S. America

Steve Benson
Aspen Times Staff Writer

In Portillo, Chile, disabled children and adults are being given the chance to ski for the first time, thanks to the efforts of Challenge Aspen.

Amanda Boxtel, the special projects director and co-founder of Challenge Aspen, brought the program to the mountains of Chile and Argentina last summer, and it was such a success that she has returned this season.

Along with five other certified instructors and roughly 15 participants from Aspen, Boxtel is providing ski instructors in the Andes with the proper techniques required to teach people with disabilities how to ski.

“They are trained how to work with adaptive equipment and how to facilitate lessons with people with disabilities,” said Challenge Aspen volunteer coordinator Allison Bartholomaus.

The disabled include the blind, mentally and physically disabled, and amputees. In addition to training the instructors to utilize the techniques on their own, Challenge Aspen invited anyone with a disability to join the program.

The Challenge Aspen group has spent two weeks in South America, the first in Aspen’s sister resort of Bariloche, Argentina, and the second in Portillo. They will return after this week.

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Last year Challenge Aspen provided roughly 20 disabled children and adults in Portillo with the opportunity to ski.

“It was a great success,” Bartholomaus said. “People came back with lots of positive stories.”

Bartholomaus, who has guided blind skiers on Aspen Mountain, said skiing opens up a whole new world to people with disabilities.

“Skiing is one of the most free experiences for people with disabilities,” she said. “A lot of them say it gives them the feeling that they can fly.

“When you see someone who can’t speak, but they have huge smiles, it’s pretty incredible,” she added.

Challenge Aspen began in 1995, and offers year-round programs and events for people with disabilities.

“[Challenge Aspen] is always expanding,” Bartholomaus said. Last winter, several instructors from Portillo came to Aspen to further advance their training through Challenge Aspen.

“Basically I enjoy it because it adds another aspect to your own skiing,” Bartholomaus said. “It’s a great feeling letting somebody else experience what you get to experience all the time. It’s really amazing.”

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