Letter from Challenge Aspen: Kaplan Challenge | AspenTimes.com

Letter from Challenge Aspen: Kaplan Challenge

Aspen Skiing Co. CEO Mike Kaplan gives skiing blindfolded a try on December 9, 2019, with Challenge Aspen's Jeff Hauser and Deb Sullivan.
Daniel Bayer | Courtesy photo/Challenge Aspen

Dear readers,

On a snowy Snowmass day at Elk Meadows in early December, Aspen Skiing Company CEO Mike Kaplan took to the slopes in a whole new way.

Joining the Tennessee School for the Blind, Mike got a firsthand look at Challenge Aspen’s program. Then, under close guidance by a PSIA certified Challenge Aspen instructor, REC Program Director Deb Sullivan, Challenge Aspen CEO Jeff Hauser, and other support volunteers, Mike blindfolded himself and took some short runs to sample what a visually impaired individual experiences on the hill.

“Skiing without sight was humbling and revealing for me,” Kaplan said. “I immediately realized how dependent I am on my sight for the things I most enjoy, and how impressive and gritty these kids are in all they do.”

Challenge Aspen is a local non-profit based in Snowmass Village and dedicated to impacting lives through year-round adaptive experiences for individuals faced with cognitive and/or physical disabilities.

Challenge Aspen creates life-changing opportunities by encouraging participation in activities designed to redefine limits, recognize abilities, and transfer newfound courage to everyday life. Celebrating their 25th Anniversary in 2020, Challenge Aspen serves local, national and international individuals and veterans through adaptive experiences.

Now in their 24th year, the annual program with the Tennessee School for the Blind gives visually impaired students the chance to experience skiing and/or snowboarding for the first time. Supported by Certified Aspen Skiing Company Instructors and strategically assigned Challenge Aspen volunteers, they become acquainted with the equipment, conditions and ways to experience this new sport.

“Your heart starts racing,” said 18-year-old student Alisha Geary. “Your mood changes, your attitude shifts. It’s just amazing. You kind of have to experience it yourself, you know? You kind of have to rely on what you’re feeling and what you’re hearing more than what you’re seeing.”

Challenge Aspen is grateful to be able to provide this opportunity to the students from the Tennessee School for the Blind, local and national guests, and through our Challenge Aspen Military Opportunities (CAMO) programs because of the continuing support from Aspen Skiing Company.

Thanks and Happy New Year!

Challenge Aspen



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