Ignite Adaptive Sports:
Hitting the Slopes with the Disabled Community Words Dell Bleekman Photos John M. Ahlbrand
t’s a chilly morning at Eldora Mountain Resort. Two adults, wearing bright blue and green jackets with Ignite Adaptive Sports emblazoned on the back, push a small wheelchair down a ramp to where the walkway meets the snow. The instructors gently lift their six-year-old client into a bi-ski, a plexiglass bucket with two skis attached underneath. Their young student, here for a morning lesson, lives with severe scoliosis and greatly reduced muscle strength. Usually she views the world from her wheelchair, but today she’ll be skiing. Back at “World Headquarters” — an ambitious title for a pair of trailers tucked in the parking lot near the Little Hawk lift — the excitement and energy level is palpable. Instructors read case histories of the students with whom they’ll be working, administrators check in the students who arrive with parents or caregivers, and technicians prepare the gear for the day: skis, snowboards and snowshoes. Inside the equipment trailer a blind student crates her dog in preparation for a morning lesson.
Who Ignite Serves
Ignite Adaptive Sports began at Eldora in 1975, offering snowsports lessons to the disabled community. Over the decades the 30 Boulder Lifestyle | January 2014
non-profit organization has grown to one of the larger adaptive programs in Colorado; in the last year they saw 206 students and gave more than 1,000 lessons. Ignite’s clients mostly come from the Front Range. Half are children; the other half adults. About one-third of those are wounded servicemen returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, as Ignite has strong relationships with both the Denver and Cheyenne VA hospitals. The Colorado Center for the Blind buses in their students for lessons. The St. Vrain and Boulder Valley school districts also work closely with Ignite, sending their disabled students for snowsports lessons. And, of course, parents or caregivers bring children for lessons. One such parent is Marie Rotter. Rotter was desperate to find a sports program for her son Aidan, then five. Two years prior doctors had diagnosed Aidan as being on the autism spectrum, and his experiences with team sports such as soccer or individual pursuits like karate were not successful. She turned to Ignite, but even skiing gave her pause. “We weren’t sure how Aidan would react to it,” Rotter recalls. Ignite’s one-on-one instruction proved invaluable – many stu-
January 2014 Issue of Boulder Lifestyle