Disabled veteran clinic takes on Aspen, Snowmass outdoor activities
Snowmass Village will host about 350 disabled veterans for the 37th annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic from March 25-31.
The clinic began in 1987 and has been coming to Snowmass since 2001. Over 1,000 people, which includes disabled veterans, instructors, nurses and caretakers, will swarm the mountain to take part in the largest adaptive ski program in the country.
“The mission of the Winter Sports Clinic is to involve disabled veterans with spinal cord injuries, amputations, neurological disorders, visual impairments and other profound injuries and medical concerns in challenging therapeutic outdoor experiences and education,” the clinic website states. “These experiences provide the catalyst which improves overall physical well-being, mental health, self-esteem, community re-entry and readjustment.”
Veterans come from 40 different states and 90 different Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) centers across the United States.
There are a plethora of events for veterans to choose from during their time in the Roaring Fork Valley. Veterans will be at the Aspen ice rink for sled hockey and the rec center for curling and kayaking. They’ll also travel to Basalt for flyfishing and, new this year, hang cycling on the Basalt Cycling Trail.
“We are excited to be back in Snowmass and are expecting a full clinic this year,” event director Teresa Parks said.
The clinic will welcome 120 new veterans this year, in addition to plenty of those who have been coming for years. Parks said the newbies tend to come in a bit nervous and timid about the events, but by Wednesday they are participating in everything and excited about each activity.
“They really do push their limitations at this clinic and that, for me, is probably the most exciting thing every year,” she said.
The Winter Sports Clinic brings all of the adaptive ski equipment, accomodations and personnel they need to Snowmass, which Park described as a huge undertaking. The equipment travels in a large trailer to get to Snowmass.
Park said they also brings in world-class instructors and recreation therapists from across the country for the Winter Sports Clinic. The instructors and therapists are volunteers who take a week of their time off to help out at the event.
The National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic is sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), along with corporate sponsors and individual donors.
“It’s really incredible to partner with the DAV,” Park said.
Communications director Jason Strickland said having a healthcare setting that engages in adaptive sports and rehabilitation in an “outside of the box” way is life-changing and even life-saving for some of the veterans who participate.
The eventful week concludes on Friday, March 31, with a superhero-themed race day at the Spider Sabich Race Center off the Village Express lift in Snowmass. Following the races, veterans will participate in a medal presentation and closing ceremony.
To reach Audrey Ryan, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.