This is the 22nd Annual Hartford Ski Spectacular, hosted by Disabled Sports USA. The Hartford is one of the main contributors, even in these tough financial times.
It is called the nation's largest winter sports festival of this type, with more than 700 participants this year. Many of the wounded warriors lost limbs, or suffered other major injuries, in battles in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, or other wars. Other participants have disabilities, and take part in a number of adaptive sports programs. Many are training for upcoming Paralympics events in Vancouver.
It is fitting this year's event began on December 7, 2009, the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. These are brave, patriotic folks, who have suffered greatly, but never give up.
My husband Charles Sneiderman and I have been honored to attend three of these Hartford events, as well as numerous other Wounded Warrior activities around the nation. We were pleased to see so many old friends. Most of us were staying in the huge Beaver Run Resort and Conference Center, which hosts the events. It is well run, the views are great, and you can ski in and ski out to the slopes. The sports rental facilities are part of the building, which makes it much easier. The warriors have the use of a vast amount of special equipment - sit skis and other gear for those with lost limbs. Most of their equipment is stored on a big truck, provided by the Veterans Administration.
It was bitter cold when we arrived in Breckenridge, with temperatures far below zero. But we managed a few runs each day. The slopes were hard packed and well groomed. The participants were out early, receiving lessons in the bitter cold. Many of the instructors also suffered from disabilities, which makes them more sensitive and effective as teachers. It often takes several dedicated people to help the sportspeople into their equipment, and assist them on the chairlifts. But, once they are set, they fly down that mountain!
December 8, 2009
What a hardy bunch these skiers are. A group of snowsports writers were hosted by the fine folks at Vail Associates. They represent the ski areas owned by Vail - including Breckenridge, Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone, and Heavenly. We had a wonderful breakfast at the Seven's restaurant, located in the new Grand Lodge at the base of Peak 7. You get up to it by the gondola from the parking lot, and can take a free bus to the lot. After breakfast, about 20 in the group took a number of fast runs. The snow was in wonderful condition, with more light, fluffy snow falling constantly. But the temperature was near zero, and the wind strong. I did not try to keep up - Charles and I did a few runs with our wounded warrior friends. They are still out there in the mountains, training for races, and gaining strength and coordination each day.
We re-joined the Vail media group for a lunch at the Ten Mile restaurant, and sampled their new, giant Epicburger. It ties in with their Epic ski pass, which is a terrific buy for anyone skiing at the Vail Resorts. After that, a few more runs in the snow and cold. It brings out the wild in me - to be in the high mountains, with the snow and wind lashing my face. A beautiful feeling of closeness with nature. The skiing gets better, and we live up to our motto, "we go, it snows!"
December 9, 2009
Bobby Palm of Ski Santa Fe gave a workshop this morning on the adaptive use of ski-bikes (or ski-bobs as they are called in Europe). Standard ski-bikes can be used by people with a wide variety of impairments and are much less expensive than sit skis. Even double above-knee amputees can use ski-bikes without bearing weight on their stumps, as long as they have enough hamstring strength to shift their weight as the bike turns. Although none of our local areas have ski-bikes, I saw instructors from Liberty and Wintergreen in the workshop, so don't be surprised if we see some ski bikes on our local slopes soon.
Bruce Hori, Director of Sales and Marketing at Beaver Run Resort, invited us to lunch at Spencer's Restaurant, which offers a fabulous lunch buffet slopeside; soup, salad, and cold cut sandwiches for $7.95 or a full meal for $14.95! With temperatures in the single digits and wind chills on the upper mountain reported at -60, I decided that I would use the full meal as an excuse not to ski after lunch. As you can see from the photo of Bruce on our balcony, we are in a penthouse unit on the eighth floor of the newest building at Beaver Run with a fireplace and Jacuzzi, so let the wind howl outside! Connie spent the day visiting with warriors, writing, and doing interviews and we can get our exercise today in the indoor portion of the indoor-outdoor pool, or in the Spa or exercise room.
December 11, 2009
The end of our week here was glorious. Peak Seven opened, and it was fantastic. Long, rolling runs, miles long, and heart stopping views of Lake Dillon, A-Basin, Keystone, and other areas in the distance. Breckenridge is a monster of a resort, with over 155 trails covering 4 peaks. The altitude we skied was 11,550 feet at the summit. The Imperial Chair is at 12,840 feet. It was cold and windy on the chairs and at the top, but it gave way to warm skiing on the way down. The snow was well groomed, and some was manmade. The monster storm which hit the nation dumped more snow in the southern resorts. This week, the snow was hard packed and fast!
The rental equipment from Breckenridge was superb - brand new Salomon skis and Nordica boots for Charles; I used Salomon boots and skis. We were happy to be able to rent near our Beaver Run condo, but return the equipment to the shop at Peak 7. Hard to carry that equipment around on the gondolas and buses. I still fail to understand why new boots need to be so heavy and hard to get on and off. The heaviness and bulkiness of the equipment are driving more people to snowboards, snowbikes, and other equipment. This may not be bad. I wish I could learn snowboarding but, at this stage in my life, I am afraid of breaking a wrist. I know all the scientific explanations for heavy, stiff boots but frankly, I don't buy them. Boots were much more comfortable when I started skiing in the late sixties!.
One highlight of the trip was meeting former British soldier Darren Swift. He lost both legs at the knees to an IRA bomb, but gets along brilliantly on his snowboard. When he gets off the lift, he puts the board on the snow, and stands on his hands! Many of the sportsman and women have developed tremendous upper body strength, since they have lost legs. But, there are many who have also lost eyesight, hearing, or suffer brain injuries. Congratulations to all the Wounded Warriors and adaptive skiers and boarders. Good luck in the paralympics.