Founder of NSCD dies, leaves legacy as adaptive skiing pioneer

Hal O'Leary sits in his office at the NSCD in Winter Park Resort, surrounded by accolades, press clippings and photographs of his life in this 2017 photo.
Sky-Hi News file photo

One of the founders of the National Sports Center for the Disabled has died.

Hal O’Leary died Thursday under the care of Denver Hospice, according to a Facebook post from the National Sports Center for the Disabled. He was 94.

O’Leary spent more than 50 years as an instrumental part of the NSCD at Winter Park Resort, a program that now serves more than 4,000 children and adults with disabilities each year.

O’Leary, who was a ski instructor at the resort, volunteered in 1970 to give a one-time ski lesson to 23 children with amputations. O’Leary transformed that ski lesson into the NSCD and became a pioneer in recreation for people with disabilities.

O’Leary also coached the US Disabled Olympic Team, authored three books on teaching adaptive skiing and traveled the world teaching other ski programs how to provide similar services, helping set up adaptive ski programs in over 30 countries.

He went on to be inducted into the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame, the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame and the U.S. Disabled Ski Hall of Fame, along with winning a number of awards for his contributions.

“We will miss seeing Hal’s warm smile and hearing his encouraging words and stories as we walk through the offices, Balcony House and around Winter Park,” the NSCD said in a post.

O’Leary, along with Kathy Gingery of Tabernash, founded the Shining Stars Foundation in 2001. The nonprofit provides year-round recreation programs to children facing long-term pediatric cancer treatment and their families.

According to a Go Fund Me page for O’Leary, who struggled from a knee infection and had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, details for a celebration of life will be forthcoming.

Read more about Hal O’Leary’s life and contributions to adaptive skiing in this 2017 profile:

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

The Sky-Hi News strives to deliver powerful stories that spark emotion and focus on the place we live.

Over the past year, contributions from readers like you helped to fund some of our most important reporting, including coverage of the East Troublesome Fire.

If you value local journalism, consider making a contribution to our newsroom in support of the work we do.