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Challenge Aspen goes global

Janet Urquhart

Challenge Aspen has been inspiring disabled individuals to try skiing and other recreational pursuits since its founding five years ago. Now the organization is inspiring other countries to follow in its tracks.

This week, the Snowmass Village-based organization is hosting the first International Adaptive Symposium, a gathering of 43 individuals from 15 countries who are learning to establish adaptive skiing programs in their home communities. Wheelchairs are a part of life for 17 of the participants.

“I’m hearing this is the largest event of its kind in the world,” said Amanda Boxtel, Challenge Aspen co-founder and its special projects director.

Guests like international mono-skiing champs Karl Lotz, Gerda Pamler and Iban Calzada Mangues have joined trainers and ski instructors who work with disabled individuals for an intensive schedule of on-mountain clinics and classroom presentations.

The group also includes Russian Andrei Riabov, a wheelchair-bound engineer from the isolated community of Izhevsk in the Ural Mountains. He is here with his 9-year-old son, Grigori, and an assistant thanks to a full scholarship for the trio provided by Challenge Aspen.

“One of our volunteers discovered him [Riabov] on the Internet,” Boxtel said. Now, she said, he is skiing side-by-side with his son for the first time.

“This is the most exiting thing I think I’ve ever put on,” Boxtel added. “It’s kind of putting Aspen and Snowmass on the disability map worldwide. It’s a real coup.”

It’s also a giant step toward Boxtel’s dream – to get Challenge Aspen-style programs going around the world. The local program is serving as a model, while the symposium provides participants with the nuts and bolts of helping the disabled find the joys of skiing.

That means presentations on everything from fund-raising to guiding a blind skier down a bump run.

Local ski instructors and trainers from across the country are offering lessons to symposium participants in the use of adaptive equipment and on how to teach disabled skiers. Sponsor Spokes ‘n’ Motion, a distributor of adaptive ski equipment worldwide, and Alois Praschberger, a European manufacturer of adaptive equipment, will offer a peek at the latest in technology – like the new mono-snowboard.

Challenge Aspen, which will mark its fifth anniversary next month, now serves some 600 individuals with various disabilities throughout the year. Its programs offer summer and winter recreational opportunities for the disabled.


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