An all-around rewarding experience on the slopes of Snowmass
Challenge Aspen volunteers find joy in helping people with disabilities participate in snowsports
Winter in Aspen and Snowmass 2022
This story was originally published in the “Winter in Aspen & Snowmass 2022” magazine, which is free and on newsstands now around the Roaring Fork Valley as well as online at aspentimes.com/magazines.
For Challenge Aspen volunteers Dan and Karen Cutler, lending a hand at the adaptive sports nonprofit in Snowmass Village has been about learning as much as it has been about giving back.
“Establishing a connection with the participants in the local program has been very rewarding for us,” Karen Cutler said. “It’s really opened our eyes up … to this whole community of people and having an opportunity to actually get to be friends with them and help them out. It’s been really rewarding.”
The Cutlers, who are semi-retired and live about halfway between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, are entering their third season as volunteers with Challenge Aspen, where they support athletes with physical and intellectual disabilities on the mountain.
Though it’s been rewarding, it hasn’t always been a piece of cake, Dan Cutler said. It can take patience, practice and perspective to learn the ropes of adaptive sports, which is why he recommends that prospective volunteers do a trial run if they’re interested in getting involved.
For more information about volunteering with Challenge Aspen, visit challengeaspen.org/volunteer. Volunteers must be intermediate or advanced skiers or snowboarders to support on-mountain activities, but opportunities are also available off the mountain through office work, fundraising, special events and other programs.
Flexibility and an adaptable mindset are key, but don’t let a lack of experience hold you back, the Cutlers emphasized. More than 75 volunteers assist in programs on and off the mountain year-round, but Challenge Aspen is also staffed by adaptive sports professionals who offer support, expertise and guidance along the way.
And whether it’s day one volunteering or day 100, there’s always something to gain: experience, yes, but also friendships, connections and memories, the Cutlers said.
“Every time we volunteer, and we’re out on the mountain with them, on the drive home, we just can’t stop talking about how wonderful the day has been,” Karen Cutler said.
Skiers from the Challenge Aspen crew make their way back to the lift while practicing at Snowmass on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020. | Kelsey Brunner/The Snowmass Sun
Challenge Aspen offers adaptive sports for people with disabilities year-round, with a home base located on the second level of the Snowmass Mall.
The organization includes two core branches: the Recreational, Educational and Cultural (REC) program for disabled athletes of all ages and backgrounds and the Challenge Aspen Military Opportunities (CAMO) retreat program for disabled veterans.
Athletes interested in joining Challenge Aspen programs can learn more at challengeaspen.org/programs. Scholarships are available.
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