Vets explore what’s possible at Snowmass sports clinic |

Vets explore what’s possible at Snowmass sports clinic

Snowmass Sun staff report
Aspen, CO Colorado
Ann LarsonThe Winter Sports Clinic is under way at Snowmass and John Devine of Long Island, left, is happy to be back on the snow. A former Marine, he is accompanied by instructors Bob Lemley of Durango on skis and Matt Feeney of Fraser in the monoski.

SNOWMASS VILLAGE – The annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, now under way at Snowmass, is more than just a gathering of veterans. It’s more than just a week of snow sports. It is, for many of the more than 400 participants, a life-changing experience.

In opening remarks for this year’s event, which runs through April 2 in Snowmass Village, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki urged participants to push themselves physically and mentally, on the slopes and off. He asked them to seek answers to two questions: “What’s possible?” and “Can I do more than I think?”

Now in its 24th year, the clinic provides ample opportunities for veterans – who have disabilities ranging from amputations, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, blindness and more – to explore what is possible.

With everything from adaptive alpine and nordic skiing, to sled hockey and rock climbing on the six-day agenda, the vets who come to Snowmass are given the chance to try new things and expand their boundaries, honing skills they can take home with them after the week of fun and adventure.

“It’s about deciding how you live the other 51 weeks of the year,” Shinseki said. “So let’s go conquer that mountain!”

But they don’t have to do it alone.

In addition to the various free sports clinics, educational programs and other activities, participating veterans will also get the chance to ski with Olympic alpine skiers Bode Miller and Casey Puckett, and Paralympic athletes Sean Halsted (nordic) and Jim Martinson (alpine skiing). At the “Night of Champions,” the vets get to mix and mingle with Olympic snowboarders Chris Klug, Andy Finch and Gretchen Bleiler, as well as Russell Wolfe (Paralympic archery), and John Register (Paralympic track and field).

Of athletes such as Halsted, Martinson, Wolfe and Register, Shinseki said: “Life may have changed for these athletes, but they did not.” He asked all veterans at the winter sports clinic to be inspired by their example.

Inspiration, however, is a two-way street.

“I’m constantly inspired by the veterans who participate in the Winter Sports Clinic, and I’m proud to welcome them – and our Olympic champions – to Colorado this year,” U.S. Sen. Mark Udall wrote in welcome statement to participants. “This annual clinic has helped thousands of our nation’s disabled veterans take their rehabilitation to the next level. As an old mountain climber, I know that testing yourself on a snow-covered peak has the power to build physical and inner-strength in a way that few experiences can.

“And the veterans who participate in this clinic demonstrate time and again their incredible physical and inner strength as they push themselves to overcome their physical loss and develop new skills.”

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