Disabled veterans recreate in the valley | PostIndependent.com

Disabled veterans recreate in the valley

Colleen O’Neil
Veteran Michael Loge
Colleen O’Neil / Post Independent |

For the 14th year in a row, hundreds of disabled veterans are in the Roaring Fork Valley to participate in the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.

The clinic gives servicemen and women with traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, amputations, visual impairments and neurological disabilities a chance to enjoy winter sports in the Rocky Mountains.

The National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic was created by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in 1987 with roughly 90 Veterans who were eager to learn to ski using adaptive equipment, and 20 staff members. The debut was at Powderhorn Mountain. In 1992, it moved to the Aspen/Snowmass area before switching the location to Crested Butte the next year. In 2001 the clinic came back to Aspen/Snowmass, and it’s been there ever since.

This year, the program started March 28 and concludes Friday. The clinic is now co-sponsored by the VA and the Disabled American Veterans, as well as many other corporate sponsors and individual donors. The largest rehabilitative program of its kind, the clinic uses adapted physical activities as well as workshops and educational sessions to help in the rehabilitation of severely disabled veterans.

In addition to skiing, clinic participants can choose from a myriad of other activities, from snowmobiling to rock climbing. They also have the option to participate in curling, scuba diving and snowshoeing. In the afternoon, the veterans can hang out at the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool and have lunch at the Elks Lodge. On the last day of the clinic, there will be two ski races and an awards ceremony for the winners.

“It’s been one of the best weeks of my life,” said Antoine Gray, a 36-year-old veteran from Houston, as he relaxed by the Hot Springs Pool on Wednesday afternoon. “Every day has been a first.”

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