Colorado Discover Ability provides adaptive sports across Western Slope |

Colorado Discover Ability provides adaptive sports across Western Slope

Brittany Markert
Maria Peters and Anthony Prough help a participant named Dion in a Duckie boat during a recent Colorado Discover Ability day camp in Grand Junction.
John Mitchell |


Colorado Discover Ability is currently seeking volunteers “craving adventure” on the mountain or river, or to help with administrative tasks and special projects.


Maria Peters brought her son Max, who has Down syndrome, to Colorado Discover Ability when he was 4 years old. He started with ski lessons at Powderhorn Mountain Resort. Now age 13, he’s progressed not only as a skier, but as an independent young man as well.

“Max feels like anyone else when he skis,” Maria said. “There is no difference.”

Since her involvement with CDA over the past decade, Maria has also transformed from a mom to an active volunteer. And when Maria brings Max to CDA events, she trusts he’ll always be well taken care of even when she’s not looking.

“It’s like a circle,” she said. “I am a passionate mother and this group has made a huge difference in my kid. So I like to give back and teaching one-on-one with the other participants.

“The impact on Max is enormous; 20-30 years from now it will help improve his quality of life.”


Grand Junction’s CDA started in 1980 by a group of enthusiastic skiers wanting to help those with disabilities of all kinds. Since then, the nonprofit’s mission developed to increase independence, self confidence, self worth and education through outdoor therapeutic recreation, otherwise known as adaptive sports. Through seasonal programming, volunteers and paid staff work with children and adults throughout western Colorado. Participants learn to swim, cycle, and raft in the summer along with skiing and snowboarding at Powderhorn in the winter. A day and over-night camp is also offered during the summer.

“We adapt no matter what to fit the scenario,” program director Ron Lunsford said. “You see [participants] are able to do anything with anyone. It’s powerful to watch them conquer the world like anyone else.

“We’re in the business of making smiles.”

According to Maria, CDA programs would not be possible without help from its volunteer pool, roughly totaling 160 people.

“Many people who volunteer are connected in some way and want to give back,” Maria said. “We love volunteers; we depend 100 percent on them.”


Lunsford, a Colorado Mesa University graduate, took on CDA’s program director position in October.

With an outdoor-education background, this is the first time he’s coached an adaptive-sports program.

“It’s been wonderful so far and a great learning experience,” Lunsford said.

As he continues to learn about CDA operations, he hopes to grow the group.

“The goal is to get CDA’s vision and image out there to be known not only on the Western Slope, but throughout Colorado,” Lunsford said.

The new program director also hopes to use more adaptive mountain bikes and integrative technology — including an interactive calendar tool to book CDA events.

“We are filling gaps right now to better serve the community and Colorado as a whole,” Lunsford said.

Current offices for CDA are located in the Center for Independence (740 Gunnison Ave., Grand Junction), with adaptive equipment housed throughout the valley.

CDA recently partnered with the City of Grand Junction to build a new 5,000-square-foot facility on city owned land along the riverfront, part of the pending Las Colonias Park project (which was recently funded by a Great Outdoors Colorado grant).

“We are really excited to partner with the city to expand our program in the community,” CDA board member Terry Harper said.

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