Clinic offers hope from the slopes | AspenTimes.com

Clinic offers hope from the slopes

Steve Benson

“The whole sight is just amazing to behold.”That’s how one participant described the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, which returns to Snowmass Village this weekend and runs through next week. As of last night, 366 disabled veterans had enrolled in the clinic, which is in its 19th year. Elaine Buehler, the public affairs specialist for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, said that number will reach more than 1,000 when combined with therapists, instructors, volunteers and family members. “It’s going to be a big dog,” she said. The youngest participant is 19 – injured in Iraq – while the oldest is an 82-year-old veteran of World War II. Buehler said the war in Iraq has caused enrollment to climb. Last year, 25 veterans disabled in Iraq traveled to Snowmass Village. That number has climbed to 66 this year. While the program doesn’t focus on any one set of vets, Buehler said it’s incredibly timely for those injured in Iraq. “This is critical,” she said. “It’s life changing, especially for the newly injured guys – getting them interested and involved and letting them know disability doesn’t mean you don’t have ability.” She recalled an incident from a past clinic where a recent double amputee, who thought skiing would be impossible, had hope restored to his life. “The look on the poor kid’s face was sheer terror, like ‘You want me to do what?'” Buehler remembered.Buehler said she waited for him at the bottom of his first run and “the look was 180 degrees different – it was excitement, exhilaration – it showed him that he could do this.” The event will also include 2005 X Games mono-ski gold medalist Chris Devlin Young, a member of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team. Young participated in the first Winter Sports Clinic almost two decades ago. This year, he will be a coach. More than 150 certified disabled ski and snowboard instructors and several current and former members of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team will lead instruction. Buehler said the clinic will also benefit relatives of recently disabled vets. “Their families are learning how to adapt to the disability, too,” she said. In addition to skiing, the clinic will include scuba diving, sled hockey, rock climbing, fishing, horseback riding, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. The clinic runs April 3-8. Steve Benson’s e-mail address is sbenson@aspentimes.com


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