Beathard: Stairway to heaven |

Beathard: Stairway to heaven

Trudging step after step up the snowy slopes of Snowmass last week, pancakes on the brain, I thought about how much exercise gets you out of your head and into your body.

I was particularly in tune with that sensation having forgotten headphones to plug into some kind of playlist with. With my friends on skins already high above me, it was just me, the crunching snow beneath, the twinkling of the sunlight through the trees and the cold air filling my lungs.

With my body in full awareness and actively engaged, in that moment, I felt that my body was me and I was my body. It got me thinking about how frustrating it would be if I couldn’t just take that next step; if I couldn’t walk, ski, stretch my legs.

This was a charity uphill for Challenge Aspen, so you can see where I’m going with this. In the midst of that very event, it made more sense than ever why physical activity was so incredibly vital to Leah Potts, a recovering quadriplegic who skinned up part of the way with the rest of us that day.

The uphill is named after Chris Bove, a Challenge Aspen instructor who died in a ski accident in 2007. While not there this year, Sam Ferguson, a Challenge Aspen athlete as well as a Winter X Games monoskiing medalist, usually gets pulled up in a sit-ski by a group of friends, climbing in memory of his friend and coach. Bove’s parents and siblings travel from the Front Range and their home state of Pennsylvania every year to support the cause Chris felt so passionate about.

Over pancakes at Elk Camp Restaurant, Challenge Aspen co-founder Houston Cowan recalled taking Chris to South America on one of the nonprofit’s early trips there. Today, the Challenge Aspen model for teaching adaptive skiing techniques is being used at resorts in Argentina.

“This would have been right up Chris’ alley,” Cowan said.

The uphill raises money for a scholarship for Roaring Fork Valley residents seeking to participate in Challenge Aspen’s programs. This year’s recipients were Max Grange and Danielle Coulter, two of Challenge Aspen’s first participants.

Danielle told the crowd that for her, skiing makes her feel free. Potts made a similar comment to me.

Isn’t that why we all get in the mountains? To clear our heads, move our bodies and for a couple of hours, just play? I can’t imagine not being able to do that, and I can only imagine the joy of doing it even after thinking it’d never again be possible.

Jill Beathard is the editor of the Snowmass Sun. Email her at

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