The Hartford Ski Spectacular: Adaptive Snow Sports for all Skill Levels

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The Colorado mountains got off to a slow start with snowfall this season, but that did not deter the more than 800 participants who flocked to Beaver Run Resort and Breckenridge Ski Resort, Breckenridge, from attending the 29th annual The Hartford Ski Spectacular. Disabled Sports USA (DSUSA) hosted the week-long event November 28-December 4, 2016, which is billed as one of the nation's largest winter sports festivals for people with physical disabilities.

Wounded Warrior using adaptive skis

This wounded warrior from Great Britain had the chance to participate in adaptive cross country skiing. Photograph courtesy of DSUSA.

prosthesis modified for use with guitar pick

An adaptive snowboarder shows his skills at carving a turn. Photograph by Reed Hoffmann, courtesy of DSUSA.

Participants, ranging in ability from first-time skiers to members of the U.S. Paralympic Team, came together to kick off the winter season with races and competitions that train and prepare athletes for national and international competition. Among the participants were over 100 wounded service members and family and military staff from the United States and Great Britain; survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing; U.S. Paralympic medalists including Alana Nichols, Evan Strong, Mike Shea, and Danelle Umstead; and 20 young U.S. Paralympic hopefuls.

"My amputation changed my life, and because of events like The Hartford Ski Spectacular, I learned how to embrace my disability," said Shea, who claimed a silver medal in snowboarding at the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia. "It ultimately brought me more opportunity, and because of that I am doing more with one leg than I ever did with two legs."

"Learn to" programs in alpine and Nordic skiing, biathlon, sled hockey, curling, and snowboarding were offered. In addition to these lessons, The Hartford Ski Spectacular also strengthens and expands adaptive snow sports programs in communities throughout the United States by training staff and volunteers at DSUSA chapters in the national adaptive academy. The ski instructor academy, endorsed by Professional Ski Instructors of America - American Association of Snowboard Instructors, offered training for instructors in the latest and safest adaptive ski and snowboard techniques for skiers with disabilities.

"For 22 years, The Hartford has partnered with us to produce an event that helps so many of our athletes achieve their goals," said Kirk Bauer, JD, executive director of DSUSA and a Vietnam veteran (he sustained a left transfemoral amputation while serving). "Through world-class instruction, a community of supporters, and the Rocky Mountains, this event continues to inspire, impact, and produce gold-medal athletes."

Editor's note: This story was adapted from materials provided by DSUSA.


Having fun on the slopes. Photograph courtesy of DSUSA.