Challenge Aspen is the kind of organization that inspires people to be better, not just the challenged individuals learning to ski with physical or mental disabilities, but the people who choose to work with them and the people on the slopes inspired by seeing the courage these athletes possess to take on a sport that is daunting to fully abled individuals.
Founded by two Aspen locals Houson Cowan and Amanda Boxtel, Challenge Aspen is a part of this community. While skiing on Snowmass Mountain in 1993 Boxtel took a tragic fall resulting in a broken back and leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. Personal experience with disability gave Amanda a genuine understanding of the importance of creating greater access to the many recreational and creative opportunities in the Rocky Mountains for the disabled community. At the urging of mutual friends, Houston and Amanda met in 1994 to explore their shared vision, and Challenge Aspen was born.
Houston Cowan became interested in teaching blind people to ski in 1991 and was first introduced to the field through BOLD (Blind Outdoor Leisure Development) as a volunteer guide and instructor and later with Ed Lucks, who was a pioneer in developing adaptive teaching techniques and equipment. In 1994 Cowan focused on the pursuit of his dream to make working with the disabled his life’s work.
Challenge Aspen has two main divisions, Recreation and Military. The Recreation side is focused on adaptive skiing instruction to those with visual and hearing impairments, spinal cord injuries and cognitive disabilities. All instructors are PSIA and AASI certified as well as professionally trained in adaptive teaching. The program offers adaptive ski and snowboard lessons, assitants, discounted tickets, and equipment rental, allowing people who may never experience the joy of skiing the opportunity to make it part of their lifestyle.
The Military side of Challenge Aspen is known as C.A.M.O. and provides adaptive recreation possibilities that hopefully server as therapeutic and wellness experiences for injured veterans. Providing the opportunity for injured service members and their families to bridge the gap between injury and moving forward with their life. Both the Recreation and Military programs offer not only ski and snowboard training and equipment, but also summer activities including fly fishing and more.
If you are hear for the winter or an extended stay you can always volunteer and help out, you will receive more than you give with an opportunity like this.