Snowmass Village resident finds calling in clowning |

Snowmass Village resident finds calling in clowning

Jill Beathard
The Aspen Times
Danielle Coulter as "Danidoll," a character in the Kidtoons Productions company.
Courtesy photo |

If you go...

What: Apres on the Bricks, free for the whole family

Where: Snowmass Base Village

When: Today and April 9, 2 to 5 p.m.

“Can’t” is not in Danielle Coulter’s vocabulary.

When she was 9 years old, her father gave her a snowboarding video game and she decided she wanted to learn how to ride. Born with cerebral palsy, Coulter had been adaptive skiing with Challenge Aspen since she was 5, but at the time, adaptive snowboarding equipment did not exist.

So Challenge Aspen instructors Rich Ganson and Bobby Palm took some PVC pipe and a climbing harness and created an apparatus that could be attached to a snowboard. It worked, and Danielle became the first adaptive snowboarder in history. Now, adaptive snowboards just like that first one are manufactured commercially, which is what she rides with now.

At age 24, Coulter has now been snowboarding for 15 years. Ganson still goes with her, but she now has enough control to transition from edge to edge on her own. The Missouri native has been visiting Snowmass Village with her family all this time, coming up for snowboarding trips as well as to participate in Challenge Aspen’s Magic of Music and Dance Camp, but as of 2014 she lives here full time.

Shortly after she first moved here, she and her mother ran into Snowmass Village resident Tammy Baar, who had met Coulter on one of her first trips to Snowmass when Baar was in character as Buttons the clown. Knowing Coulter’s fondness for Buttons and for performing arts at the Challenge Aspen camps, Baar nonchalantly invited her to come to work at her entertainment company, Kidtoons Productions.

The Buttons character had resonated with the young Coulter. Buttons was a fixture of her childhood trips here, particularly at the Challenge Aspen music camp, and she even wrote and illustrated a book about Buttons for a project in elementary school, which she has since given to Baar. The connection “was more profound to her than I realized,” Baar said.

So naturally, Coulter followed up immediately, calling Baar to say she absolutely wanted to be a clown. In brainstorming a character for her, Baar once noted that Coulter “walks like a ragdoll.” She loved it, and so she became Danidoll, and they gathered ragdoll hair, petticoats and rainbow tights for her costume. Her first paid job with Kidtoons was at the Aspen Recreation Center Family Fun Fair last May.

Danidoll does hand and finger puppets at their gigs, and in the right weather she also has a bubble wand — a big hit with the children. One of her skits involves a goat puppet singing “The Lonely Goatherd” from “The Sound of Music.”

“My favorite part is playing with the kids and seeing their reactions,” Coulter said.

A creative type, Coulter is directing the play at this year’s Challenge Aspen music and dance camp. She’s also the published author of an autobiography — “If Dan Can Shred, You Can Too” — and several children’s books.

Tarver is proud of her for finding employment, but mostly, she’s happy Coulter has pursued her dreams.

“She wanted to write and be an actress,” Tarver said. “And she’s found an avenue to be able to do that.”

Danidoll has primarily been appearing with the other Kidtoons clowns at Apres on the Bricks, a free family activity on Saturdays in Snowmass Base Village. With Snowmass Ski Area soon to close, there are two more chances to catch Danidoll in action this season, today and April 9. Apres on the Bricks runs from 2 to 5 p.m.