Veterans trying new sports at Snow Mountain Ranch | SkyHiNews.com

Veterans trying new sports at Snow Mountain Ranch

Snow Mountain Ranch hosted the NSCD Paralympic Experience for Military Veterans on Wednesday, Jan. 11.

Veterans from VA Center in Denver spent Wednesday at Snow Mountain Ranch and played sled hockey, curling and skied at the Nordic Center. They even got a chance to try out shooting for Biathlon; all Paralympic sports.

"They get a taste of these sports to see if they want to do it," said Beth Fox, education and outreach director for NSCD based out of Winter Park.

"It's an introduction to the sports but it's more than that. The day provides an opportunity for Veterans to get out and re-engage in a less intimidating environment. It's not the city with loud noises. It is a serene environment."

The Veterans were so thankful, she said.

The day is much different than their daily life which is part of the reason for coming to the mountains.

"You see the smiles and serenity in their faces. When they engage in sport and healthy activities out of their environment, you can be a success."

The bus of 46 Veterans left Denver early Wednesday morning and arrived in Grand County to blistering wind and cold.

After an hour or two on the bus, where they get to know each other, they step into a completely different world at Snow Mountain Ranch.

"We tease them about the importance of bus time, being in close space, and the luxury of time to sit and listening to someone," said Fox.

"There are really positive outcomes from riding a bus together."

Once the participants got acclimated to the weather and donned their gear, hats, and gloves, the staff encouraged participants to try each sport at each station but they didn't have to participate in each one, however, Fox said that they did.

One the best outcomes from the day included one participant who was just thankful for a day at the ranch, said Fox.

"I just have to thank you, everyone is so nice. But beside that you are kind."

Fox believes that many of these Veterans are not always met with kindness. Many of them have PTSD or they have lost their sight. Each day is difficult and they really need kindness and patience, she said.

An unexpected outcome from the end of the day included a conversation between NSCD's Therapeutic Horse Riding program, Nicole Robinson and a participant. He told her that he wanted to give back and come back to Grand County during the summer to volunteer at the horseback riding program.

"What this meant to us is that he is saying, 'I have healed enough and I'm ready but I want to give back because the value of that I've been given,'" Fox said.

This program was partially funded by a grant that the NSCD Team applied for from the Veterans Administration.

The YMCA helped support the event.

"They are fabulous to work with," Fox said.

"They shut down the ice rink for us and let us take over the Nordic center. And they lent us snowshoes and skis for the day."

"I travel all over the world for education and outreach events," said Fox.

"Not everyone with a disability can get to Winter Park. We really are a therapeutic-based program. Yes, we love sports and the outdoors but it's the outcomes: what people are learning that they take to every day life."

Kristen Lodge can be reached at 970-557-6030.