Boxtel chosen for Ski Country honor
Soon all of Colorado will know what Aspen has been aware of for quite some time – Amanda Boxtel is one amazing skier and a pretty inspirational person, to boot.
Boxtel, co-founder of Challenge Aspen, has been named the Adaptive Skier of the Year by Colorado Ski Country.
“I’m real honored and was totally surprised by the award,” Boxtel said.
Challenge Aspen co-founder Houston Cowan, however, noted the title could have been created with Boxtel in mind.
“She embodies everything the award stands for, not in just being an incredible skier but in truly being a role model,” said Cowan, who nominated Boxtel for the honor. “There should really be a national person of the year award for everything she does. … I mean, we started with two pieces of equipment that was stored in an Aspen Skiing Company room with about a 100 rolls of toilet paper. Four years later, it’s the incredible program it is, mostly due to her.”
Ski Country’s recognition also came as no surprise to Skico President and CEO Pat O’Donnell, who wrote a letter of recommendation for Boxtel to Ski Country’s judges.
“Amanda’s commitment to helping others who are mentally and/or physically disabled is, I believe, unparalleled in our industry,” O’Donnell noted.
The strength of her commitment springs from her own experience. For Boxtel, skiing was “the single most transforming” act in regrouping after her own spinal cord injury left her wheelchair-bound eight years ago.
So, helping to create an organization in order to share that experience is something Boxtel hardly considers work.
“Skiing was the catalyst to get me back to living life to the fullest. Knowing I could ski again rocketed me into freedom and my attitude, everything changed,” Boxtel recalled.
“To this day my favorite part of Challenge Aspen is teaching the real beginners. … The biggest reward is when you give of yourself to help others realize their own potential.”
Four years after that inauspicious beginning in the Skico storage room, Challenge Aspen now offers skiing, rock climbing, rafting, fishing and arts and music programs to about 400 physically and mentally disabled participants a year.
Setting its sights even higher, Challenge Aspen is looking to purchase a ranch to provide inexpensive, accessible lodging to participants. A permanent facility would also allow the organization to expand both its recreational and artistic programs.
“It’s still the same exhilaration,” remarked Boxtel about sports for the disabled. “Outside, the disabled can be on an even playing field with everyone else, enjoying the speed, the wind on your face. … There aren’t limitations at all and knowing that transforms everything else in life.”
Looking back, Boxtel can laugh about being a better skier now on a mono-ski than she was on two skis. Before her accident, she was an “average/intermediate” skier, she admits.
“I’m a lot better than before. I love the steep stuff and the fast runs,” Boxtel said. “I’m hooked on bumps now and have started to really enjoy them, rather than fight them.”
Ski Country’s awards presentation will be held on Nov. 4 in Denver at the Mind Spring Snow Sports Expo. Boxtel will represent the state’s ski industry throughout the year as an ambassador for the sport.
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International visitors have traditionally accounted for 10 to 20 percent of Aspen Skiing Co.’s skier visits in recent past seasons. Travel fears and restrictions tied to the coronavirus are expected to wipe out most of that market for 2020-21.