DS/USA Hosts Ski Spectacular, CAF Buys New Headquarters

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DS/USA Hosts The Hartford Ski Spectacular

When Army Major Bruce Gannaway lost his left foot to an explosive device in Baghdad, his lifelong love of skiing might have become a thing of the past. However, on the morning of December 7, 2008, Gannoway sat down on the slopes of the Beaver Run Resort in Breckenridge, Colorado, worked his prosthetic foot into a ski boot, and stood up on skis for the first time since his injury. With the advice of expert trainers Rina Drake and Tracy Ridelberger-Meier, he spent the next few hours puzzling through what he called "learning to ski with one foot asleep." By 10 a.m., he was skiing carefully down the bunny slopes, and by noon, he was riding a chairlift above a rugged white landscape populated with monoskiers, three-trackers, one-legged snowboarders, trainers, and able-bodied skiers. This, and many other victories like it, marked the first day of Disabled Sports USA's (DS/USA) The Hartford Ski Spectacular, one of the nation's largest winter sports festivals for people with disabilities.

In this, its 21st year, the weeklong Ski Spectacular hosted more than 900 participants. Wounded Warriors from across the country, families with a mix of children who are able-bodied and who have disabilities, professional adaptive instructors, and the nation's most elite adaptive skiers convened on the slopes for a week of snowsports instruction, racing, and inspiration.

For highly athletic Wounded Warriors like Gannaway, the Ski Spectacular was a place to swiftly regain competence in a beloved sport. For people with disabilities who were relatively or completely new to snowsports, it was an entertaining and intensive introduction to the equipment, principles, and techniques of monoskiing, three- or four-track skiing, adaptive snowboarding, or adaptive skiing. For instructors, it was a place to sharpen skills through the National Adaptive Continuing Education Academy. For parents and children with and without disabilities, it was a place to share in the joy and competition of sports. For teen adaptive racers, many of whom were participating in the Ski Spectacular free of charge courtesy of a full scholarship from DS/ USA, it was a time to compete and to sharpen skills with the help of members of the U.S. National Disabled Ski Team and Paralympian and former-Paralympian mentors. For elite athletes, it was the site of slalom, giant slalom, downhill, and Nordic competitions, essential preparation for the World Championships. For everyone, it was a place to connect with peers, heroes, people to help, and people to be inspired by.

Kirk Bauer, DS/USA executive director, has been involved with DS/USA's ski programs for more than 37 years, first while undergoing rehabilitation for an amputation in 1969. He told The O&P EDGE, "To DS/USA, success means that people with injuries engage in a sport and become regular participants so that they lead a happier life. We don't care if they win medals or win races, we want to know that they're winning the game of life."

DS/USA Announces SkiTour Series

Disabled Sports USA (DS/USA) has announced the schedule for its national DS/USA SkiTour winter ski series. From January through April 2009, the DS/USA SkiTour will include more than 40 events hosted by 28 DS/USA chapters and affiliates in 13 states. Events include beginner and elite ski races, race training, learn-to-ski training, and instructor training.

According to DS/USA, the SkiTour program is the only event that provides opportunities for youth and adults with disabilities to receive state-of-the-art instruction and adaptive equipment throughout the nation's leading regional ski destinations.

The SkiTour includes internationally rated elite "NorAm" ski races. Erik Petersen, International Paralympic Committee (IPC) head of competition for North America, said, "These are the only races held in the USA that enable national and international ski racers to qualify for the Winter Paralympic Games and our USA Alpine Disabled Ski Championships."

"The 2009 DS/USA SkiTour provides skiing and snowboarding rehabilitation opportunities that teach people with disabilities that they can lead full and active lives with their physical challenges," said Kirk Bauer, executive director of DS/USA and a disabled Vietnam veteran.

To view the SkiTour calendar of events, visit www.dsusa.org/calendars-winter-1.html ; to view the PSIA calendar, visit www.dsusa.org/programs-winter-PSIA.html

Challenged Athletes Foundation Buys New Headquarters

The Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) has purchased a 14,485 square foot office building in Sorrento Mesa, California, for $1.66 million. The two-story Class B office building, which was acquired below market value at a public auction on the San Diego courthouse steps, will serve as a permanent home for the foundation, replacing headquarters that were destroyed by fire in 2007. CAF purchased the building with proceeds from the 2006, 2007, and 2008 Qualcomm Million Dollar Challenge events, CAF's annual cycling fundraisers. In addition to serving as the CAF headquarters, the building will house a "Challenged Athletes Hall of Fame," a multi-purpose room, donor recognition walls, and a specialized athletic facility with adaptive equipment.

"It's an exciting time for the Challenged Athletes Foundation," said CAF board president and co-founder Jeffrey Essakow. "Now, thanks in large part to CAF's partnership with Qualcomm, challenged athletes will have a place to gather and train, the foundation will have a permanent home, and CAF will have a place to host community and donor-appreciation events. It's the next step in securing the long-term goals of the foundation."