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Aspen Skiing Co. gives deaf kids special opportunity

Photo Courtesy of Aspen Camp School for the DeafBrandon Cruz gets some help strapping into his snowboard during the Aspen Camp School for the Deaf Ski/Snowboard Winter Program.
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Editor’s Note: The following interviews with Martin Aguilar and Brandon Cruz, two deaf children, were conducted with a sign-language interpreter.For one weekend, 13-year-old Martin Aguilar and 10-year-old Brandon Cruz got to snowboard at Snowmass Mountain, meet knew friends and hang out at night playing games.This may sound like a normal weekend for most kids, but for Aguilar and Cruz, who are both deaf, it was a rare opportunity. The pair took part in the 26th Annual Aspen Camp School for the Deaf Ski/Snowboard Winter Program at Snowmass Feb. 1-4, where 38 deaf and hard of hearing students in fifth grade through high school snapped into skis or strapped on snowboards and explored the mountain together.For Aguilar, a sixth-grader at Glenwood Springs Middle School, and Cruz, a fifth-grader at Glenwood Springs Elementary School, it was their first time ever on snowboards. “We had fun,” Cruz said. “Sometimes we fell.”While both declined to participate in an optional race, both got the opportunity to ride the mountain for three days. “I can compete on skis, but not on the snowboard, because I have skied before,” said Aguilar, who skied three times last year. Learning from Aspen Ski Co. instructors, Cruz and Aguilar said they learned a lot and by the end of the three-day period, could take a run without falling. Cruz said he would go snowboarding again, but Aguilar said that he plans on sticking to his skis.For the children who did race, the top-two participants in the male and female divisions were given scholarships to attend ACSD’s summer camp, but all participants from seven states all over the country took part in the unique opportunity to socialize with other deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals and spend some time in the mountains of Colorado.”The opportunity for these students to meet and interact with other deaf teens has been invaluable,” said B.J. Blocker, the ACSD executive director who announced the race, in a press release. “This winter program gives them a chance to enjoy the mountains, receive expert coaching from professionals, and most importantly have a good time as they develop their self-confidence.”The boys enjoyed the social experience while partaking in various activities and playing games with each other.”We went down the hill and there was a fire and we had marshmallows,” Cruz said. “When we were done with that, we went to the cabin – me and Martin and the other deaf kids. We were talking a lot. We met someone from New Mexico and we talked about silly things.”Aguilar liked playing board games at night.”We played games like checkers and Uno.”A few weeks earlier, Cruz and Aguilar had another taste of winter sports when they made a trip up to the X Games in Aspen. But snowboarding wasn’t top on their list – both said that motocross was their favorite event.While neither were sure if they would hit the slopes again this season, Aguilar was sure he would be spending some time on one of three of his family’s snowmobiles.”I like to snowmobile, and we have a ramp for it,” Aguilar said. “We go every weekend. It is really fun.”


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