Deaf Aspen native picked for ‘Survivor’ |

Deaf Aspen native picked for ‘Survivor’

Christy Smith can’t hear, but the 24-year-old Basalt woman plans to provide a strong voice in the coming weeks for the deaf.

Smith has been selected to participate in the next round of the popular “Survivor” television show, according to an announcement by CBS. She will be one of 16 contestants trying to cope with natural and man-made calamities in a remote spot along the Amazon River in Brazil. The last contestant to “survive” wins $1 million.

CBS has a gag order on Smith and the other contestants, but the network’s Web site provides a little background.

“Smith is deaf ? she can hear minimal sounds but relies on lip-reading skills,” the site says. “Her primary motives for being on Survivor are to promote awareness for the deaf … and win $1 million.”

Smith grew up in Aspen and has a longtime involvement with the Aspen Camp School for the Deaf, according to school executive director B.J. Blocker.

“We started helping her and she started helping us when she attended camp as an 8-year-old camper,” Blocker wrote in an e-mail to The Aspen Times. “She was our poster child on one of our past brochures. She continued to attend some winter and summer camp sessions during her elementary, middle and high school years.”

Smith attended high school and college in Washington, D.C. She earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology/criminology from Gallaudet University.

After college she returned to the deaf camp’s campus in Old Snowmass as a program assistant. She was promoted to another position for the summer 2002 program.

“Christy’s performance was outstanding,” Blocker wrote. “She was extremely dedicated and put her heart and soul into all her work. She took on additional responsibilities as needed and was an outstanding role model for all campers and staff.”

Blocker said she felt Smith would be great at raising awareness for issues facing the deaf.

She won’t be the first Aspen athlete to use a high-profile position to promote a good cause. The first was snowboarder Chris Klug, the Aspen native who won a bronze medal in the parallel giant slalom in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

He used his success to build awareness about donating organs after having a liver transplant less than two years before his medal-winning performance.

Smith’s biography on the CBS Web site said she likes skiing, snowboarding, hiking, backpacking and virtually anything outdoors. She will need all her outdoor skills for “Survivor.”

The show divides strangers into two teams of eight in some remote locale, in this case along the Amazon River in Brazil. The teams, actually known as “tribes,” compete in various odd activities to see which gets “immunity.” The team that loses must boot out a member of their own tribe.

Eventually the teams merge and remaining players compete against one another for immunity, and they sometimes lie, cheat and backstab to avoid getting booted off. The contests usually require physical or mental skills or a combination.

The show has been a success in the ratings. Survivor 5, shot in Thailand, was the fifth most popular show of its season, according to CBS spokeswoman Colleen Sullivan.

She said she couldn’t disclose if Survivor 6 is still being shot or if it has concluded. No information is provided about the contestants other than what’s posted on the Web site. Smith’s whereabouts were a closely guarded secret Tuesday although friends thought she was visiting a friend in Denver.

Sullivan said a twist for the latest Survivor is the tribe structure. For the first time in the show’s history, the teams are divided according to sex. There are eight men and eight women.

“It’s a true challenge of the sexes,” said Sullivan.

The show premieres Thursday, Feb. 13.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is]

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