Aspen Adaptive Skiing program at risk

By: Gina Esposito Email
By: Gina Esposito Email

ASPEN, Colo. One of the most competitive teams for adaptive ski racing in the nation is threatened due to lack of funding. The Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club runs an Adaptive Program for injured service members, disabled veterans and civilian athletes. For years, it's been a positive program that's changed the lives of many people.

It's Aaron Howell's 3rd season in the Adaptive Program in Aspen. He said, "Recovery is good because I'm working with other military guys, some of whom have gone through similar circumstances as myself."

In April of 2010, Howell was serving in the Marine Corps in Afghanistan when he was severely injured. "I was out on a foot patrol and stepped on a IED and that result in the loss of both of my legs and some fingers," said Howell. However, Howell is now strapping on a new kind of uniform along with 20 other members.

The members practice 5 times a week or more to prepared for the Paralymics next year. Howell said, "Not only myself, but there's like a dozen other athletes in this program, trying to compete in the United States at the Paralypmics."

Kevin Mather said it's his first year in the adaptive program. He said, "It's a good mix of different disabilities some people have been born with their disability. I was injured, 2009, training for a triathlon on my bicycle. I was out for a ride on my bike and got hit by a truck, doing about 60 miles per hour. It was a hit and run."

Recently, funding has become an issue for the adaptive program. This means these athletes may never get to compete. So far the Aspen community has raised $40,000 for the program, but it's not enough. They still need another $30,000. Head Coach of the Adaptive Program, Jonathan Mika, said, "It's definitely not sustainable at this point. If we don't find some other means, we may have to shut our doors." Due to the Government Shutdown, the adaptive program is unsure if they will receive it's usual grant. Mika said they should know more information about the grant on November 30th.

"Hopefully something will come out for us and we have at least a season," said Mather.

That money is used to pay for expenses vital to the program. It's used to support the 10 veterans on the team with their housing and travel. However, it's also to keep those like Howell doing something meaningful in his life. "It's changed my life quite a bit, I'm outside everyday out here in beautiful Aspen, Colorado being competitive and I feel like i'm doing something really constructive in my life," said Howell.

If you would like to help the program continue, visit it's website:

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