National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic Heads to Snowmass for 25th Annual Event

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The National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic is the largest adaptive skiing and winter sports clinic in the world, and in March 2011, celebrates its 25th year. Making its home in Snowmass Village, Colorado for one extraordinary week for the past 10 years, the event, known as Miracles on a Mountainside, is a labor of love for the organizers and the entire Snowmass community.

National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic participants ski with outriggers, mono-skis and other adaptive equipment

We talk a lot about possibilities with disabilities

Snowmass Village makes history once again, hosting the milestone 25th year of the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic March 27-April 1. The Clinic is the single largest ski group hosted in Snowmass each year, a remarkable fact in itself. Even more amazing are the nearly 400 participants from all across the nation -- 220 of whom are in wheelchairs, and each of whom is seriously disabled -- and the 200 adaptive ski and snowboard instructors who travel to Snowmass at their own expense to help. The logistics of staging the event are staggering, and so is the groundswell of support and enthusiasm from the entire Snowmass community. Every business and individual, from the conference hotel to restaurants, lift operators to van drivers, makes the resort inviting and accessible for this extraordinary group.

The Clinic attendees stay at The Silvertree Hotel, Lodge & Conference Center, and the adjacent Wildwood property for the week. Allison Campbell, Director of Conference Services and Catering at The Silvertree, likens the transformation of the property to building a city within their hotel. Organizers come days in advance to set up ramps, lifts, communications, and activities like the climbing wall right outside the conference center, and scuba classes in the hotel pool.

"I think I can speak for the entire staff when I say it's our number one favorite group. Hosting them is so incredibly rewarding," said Campbell. "When a Clinic guest arrives for the week, they're one person, and when they leave, they're another person altogether. We have an amazing community to begin with, then we open up to host this group, and every one of us who lives and works in Snowmass is changed at the end of it too. It's powerful." As an example of the commitment to a seamless experience for these guests, Campbell cites the chef at The Silvertree, who chooses to work triple shifts to ensure that every meal for this group is flawless.

Sandy Trombetta, Director and Founder of the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, is a trained recreational therapist and certified ski instructor, based in Grand Junction, Colorado. Employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Trombetta and his staff of two work on this event year-round. Trombetta recalls the early days of creating the program, starting with one veteran in 1980. "It hit me like a ton of bricks. This is not about skiing, this is about disabled vets getting their physical lives in order," he said. "It's about what skiing does for men and women -- giving them self worth and the confidence to go home and do whatever they put their minds to, regardless of their physical form. We talk a lot about possibilities with disabilities." It took Trombetta six intervening years of training, planning, selling the idea to sponsors and partnering with private, governmental and nonprofit organizations to launch the first official National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in 1987, which hosted 80 participants that first year. Trombetta asserts that Veterans Affairs now places great value in the healing power of sports and recreation, with a 25 year track record of success that began with this event.

The veterans are coming from 48 states and from as far away as the South Pacific, flying into the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport via United/Skywest Airlines with special zoned fares extended by the airline for this group. For a majority, this event is an introduction to skiing and winter sports. Guests are both men and women, from age 18 to mid-80s. All have serious disabilities, ranging from spinal cord injuries, orthopedic amputations, visual impairments, neurological problems, and other disabilities. Some veterans served in the current conflicts in Afghanistan or Iraq; older guests are veterans of other eras such as Vietnam and even World War II.

Veterans pay for their transportation to and from Snowmass, and for their lodging during their week-long stay. Due to generous sponsorship and volunteerism from more than 100 corporations, service groups, instructors, countless individuals, Snowmass Tourism and the Aspen Skiing Company, the conference entertainment, equipment, lift tickets, and instruction are all provided as a part of the Clinic.

In addition to skiing, snowboarding, climbing wall and scuba instruction, veterans enjoy sled hockey, curling, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, evening snowcat rides on Ajax mountain, shooting and archery sports at the nearby Basalt range, fly fishing and more during the week.
The airline voluntarily moves its baggage claim to The Silvertree Hotel to minimize any inconvenience to this group. Restaurants in Snowmass provide inclusive vouchers for meals, to make the process of dining out simple and affordable for the veterans.

Trombetta believes the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic will be hosted in Snowmass for many years to come. "What's not to love about Snowmass? It's the perfect location, the airport and transportation are ideal, the town goes out of its way to adapt the conference facilities, lodging, and mall for us," he said. "It all shows what people can do when they get a chance to do something good."

About Snowmass Tourism Groups & Meetings
The year-round resort town of Snowmass Village, Colorado is located nine miles from Aspen, Colorado. Snowmass is accessible by the local Aspen/Pitkin County airport and three regional airports. Top-of-the-line conference equipment and facilities, economy to luxury guest rooms, free local transportation, countless summer and winter activities and superior guest experience characterize Snowmass Village resort. With recent investment of $1 billion in the ski area, base village, and new lodging properties with meeting space, Snowmass is ideal for meetings and conferences, ski and social groups, corporate retreats and business guests. For additional information go to http://www.snowmassgroups.com/ or call 1-800-598-2006.

Resource Link
National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic: http://miracles.dav.org/ and http://www.wintersportsclinic.va.gov

Media Contact
Patsy Popejoy
Public Relations Manager
Snowmass Tourism Office
Snowmass Village, CO
970-922-2285
ppopejoy(at)snowmasstourism(dot)com
http://www.snowmasspress.com
or
Vicky Nash – Resort Trends, Inc.
970-948-4923
Vicky(at)ResortTrends(dot)com

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