BEECH MOUNTAIN – The 40th annual Adaptive Ski/Snowboard Learn Week was held at Beech Mountain Resort from January 18-21. This year’s event was sponsored in large part by SPARC (Sports, Arts, Recreation of Chattanooga), Move United (formerly DSUSA) and Beech Mountain along with Catalyst Sports.
A number of other sponsors also participated, including the local Beech Mountain Ski Shop and the Alpine Ski Shop. During this annual week-long event, participants with a wide range of disabilities gather from across the Southeast region to learn and improve their skills using skis and snowboards. Move United’s motto, “If I can do this, I can do anything”, inspires many to try alpine sports.
This event at Beech Mountain is the oldest adapted ski clinic in the country, having first met on the mountain in 1981. Beech Mountain has continued to host this event, with the help of the Costin family. Sponsors donate to bring together instructors, equipment and resources to teach skiing/snowboarding to people with disabilities in the states of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and from Florida.
Over $90,000 worth of adaptive equipment is brought to the slopes, offering a variety of snow experiences that include the use of a monoski, biski, twin ski and sliders, all designed for assist in teaching skiing and snowboarding. Instructors from across the United States who are all PSIA Adaptive Certified Instructors with over 80 years of combined experience converge on Beech Mountain for the week. The age of participants ranges from 5 to 70+ and covers a wide range of diagnoses including physical, neurological, developmental and orthopedic challenges.
Local Special Olympics athlete Katie Holdcroft has been at this event for eight seasons, benefiting greatly from each 90-minute lesson. Often the same instructors are on site every year and this year marked Holdcroft’s third experience with instructor Colleen from Crested Butte, Colorado.
Attendees check in at the Beech Mountain Alpen Haus building with Al Kaye, Debbie Hightower and her team, Susie Baker and Rebekah Gilman. Each athlete is greeted with a tote bag filled with goodies including hand warmers, snacks and body cream, the highlight of which – the annual commemorative t-shirt.
The social aspect of the event had been modified this year with the removal of large family dinners and the banquet. Additionally, masks were required inside the building with social distancing attempts also in effect.
Although the weather did not always cooperate in a timely manner, snowfalls of over 20 inches on January 16th and 17th set the stage for wonderful snow conditions. Four full days of great snow were the experience of all the athletes.