30th Annual Hartford Ski Spectacular Draws 800-plus Participants

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Disabled Sports USA (DSUSA) hosted the 30th annual Hartford Ski Spectacular December 4-10, 2017, at Beaver Run Resort and Breckenridge Ski Resort in Breckenridge, Colorado. More than 800 participants, including first-time skiers, wounded service members, and members of the U.S. Paralympic team, kicked off the winter season with instruction and competitions that teach beginners and train athletes for national and international competitions.


More than 175 wounded veterans and their families, and military staff from the United States and Great Britain also participated in the week-long event, which is one of the country's largest winter sports festivals for individuals with physical disabilities. Wounded or injured service members traveled to Colorado from Walter Reed National Medical Center, San Antonio Military Medical Center, Naval Medical Center San Diego, and the Semper Fi Fund.



More than 175 wounded vets came from across the country and Great Britain to compete. Photograph courtesy of Reed Hoffmann, Disabled Sports USA.

For retired Army sergeant and avid snowboarder Matt Melancon, attending the ski spectacular has opened the door to possibilities. While serving in Afghanistan in 2011, Melancon's vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device that caused severe injuries to his legs and lungs. After attempting limb salvage, Melancon had his first transfemoral amputation in 2013 and a second a year later. "The Ski Spectacular was the first recreational sports trip I took after my injury. Sports have cultivated an attitude of possibility in me, and this started at Ski Spectacular," said Melancon, a Purple Heart recipient.


U.S. Paralympic medalists Keith Gabel and Mike Shea and other U.S. Paralympic hopefuls also participated in the event, all hoping to compete at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, in March.


Among the youth participants was ten-year-old Lilly Biagini who had bilateral transfemoral amputations when she was seven years old due to a rare muscular condition. In October 2017, Biagini's family lost their home and her wheelchair and prostheses in a California wildfire.


The annual event also included "learn to" programs in alpine and Nordic skiing, biathlon, sled hockey, curling, skating, and snowboarding. The Hartford Ski Spectacular also trains 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, offers training for instructors in the latest and safest adaptive ski and snowboard techniques for individuals with disabilities.


The Hartford, a founding partner of U.S. Paralympics, has been the title sponsor of The Hartford Ski Spectacular since 1994. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the presenting sponsor, provides essential equipment and technical support.


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