Miracles on a Mountainside

In the 1980s a recreation therapist at the Grand Junction VA Clinic in Colorado began taking veterans skiing as a way to help show them that, despite their injuries, they were still capable individuals who could enjoy life. In 1987, Sandy Trombetta took things further and started the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sport Clinic. In 1991, Disabled American Veterans (DAV) joined in and DAV and VA have been running the annual event ever since, helping some 400 veterans a year accomplish “miracles on a mountainside.”

Held every year in Snowmass Village, Colorado, disabled veterans receive instruction in “adaptive Alpine and Nordic skiing” using sit-skis, mono-skis, bi-skis, and other stand up adaptive techniques, from approximately 200 instructors, including some current and former members of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team. The program also introduces the veterans to a host of other adaptive sports, such as rock climbing, sled hockey, target shooting, snowmobiling, and scuba diving. There have also been wheelchair/disability self-defense classes taught by the U.S. Secret Service.

The clinic is open to disabled male and female veterans of all eras with “spinal cord injuries, orthopedic amputations, visual impairments, certain neurological problems, and other disabilities,” who receive care, inpatient or outpatient, from a VA medical facility. Servicemembers on active duty who have an impairment or are recovering from an injury may also be eligible.

Next year’s clinic will be held 30 March – 4 April, 2014. Registration for participants began in August of this year and volunteers could start rogering up as early as June. Details on registration, as well as where to find funding to attend, can be found at: http://www.va.gov/opa/speceven/wsc/index.asp

If winter sports aren’t your thing, there is also a National Disabled Veterans Summer Sports Clinic held in San Diego, CA, each year. Similar to the winter clinic, it is a week-long clinic that offers disabled veterans a chance to participate in such adaptive sports as sailing, kayaking, cycling, surfing, and track and field events. Next year’s clinic will be held from 14-19 September, 2014, and registration has not yet opened. Details on this clinic and registration can be found at: http://www.va.gov/opa/speceven/ssc/index.asp

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