50 years of the National Sports Center for the Disabled

Group's biggest fundraiser of the year, the Wells Fargo Ski Cup, runs this weekend at Winter Park Resort

Athletes who race with the National Sports Center for the Disabled learn a lot more than skiing.

Inside Erik Petersen’s office at the National Sports Center of the Disabled hangs a handful of lanyards — the nice, expensive kind with thick laminate and heavy bands sturdy enough to take the weight of commemorative pins.

And neatly lined up across the bands on these lanyards are scores of those pins from the Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia; Vancouver, Canada; PyeongChang, South Korea and beyond.

It’s a medal count of sorts for Petersen, director of the NSCD’s Competition Center. The Competition Center’s athletes have done rather well over the decades, winning more than 225 medals since the NSCD started participating in the Paralympic Winter Games in 1980.

Needless to say, every time one of the athletes procures the hardware — gold, silver or bronze — Petersen wants a pin for the collection.

The pins are a little reminder of some of the athletes Petersen has worked with — more than 300 during his tenure with the NSCD — and it’s a fun way for him to track some of the success at the NSCD. But if you ask Petersen, there are far better ways than medals to measure the work happening at one of Grand County’s farthest reaching nonprofits.

One might be its amazing longevity, as the NSCD is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Another could be the more than 4,000 children and adults living with disabilities who participated in over 18,000 lessons with the NSCD in 2019.

And the NSCD isn’t just for skiing either. Over the years, the organization has grown from providing adaptive ski lessons to offering more than 20 adaptive sports and recreation programs year-round.

Over the past five decades, the NSCD has provided service to more than 150,000 children and adults who are living with disabilities and want to enjoy sports and the outdoors.

A couple of reasons the NSCD can do this are its close relationship with Winter Park Resort, the volunteers who’ve logged nearly 1.4 million hours over the years and the thousands of donors who continue to support the nonprofit’s operations, programming and engineering of new adaptive sports equipment.

“Not only do we provide world-class training, we’re also here for quality of life,” Petersen said of the NSCD. “There are athletes who come through our program who will never have the opportunity to go to the Paralympic games… but they love to be part of the program and they really endeavor to make themselves better human beings.”

lessons learned

Born in New Zealand, Adam Hall is a member of his country’s disabled ski team. However, with such a short season over there, he trains at Winter Park.

More than anything, Hall is grateful for the NSCD and everything the organization has done for him — and it’s done a lot.

Hall has been working with the NSCD for 16 to 17 years, and he has been a member of its Alpine Ski Team for over 12 years now. There’s no shortage of awards and medals that Hall has won, and a number of the pins on the lanyards in Petersen’s office came via Hall, who raced in the Winter Games in 2006, 2010 and most recently in 2014. He is now training for 2022.

Athletes from seven different nations train at the Competition Center, including New Zealand, and Hall said it’s like “a big family” of the camaraderie that exists among the NSCD athletes.

Like most athletes, it’s been an honor and a privilege for Hall to represent his country. All the medals and awards he’s won are another nice reward for the hard work he’s put in, but Hall knows the benefits he’s received from the NSCD extend far beyond any podium he’s ever stood on.

“You learn a helluva a lot through the program,” he said. “It teaches you — you know I was 15, 16 when I first started coming here — so the amount of life skills the NSCD has taught me through the program and through the sport is something I wouldn’t have learned any other way.”

The Wells Fargo Ski Cup raises anywhere from $250,000-$300,000 every year for the National Sports Center for the Disabled, one of Grand County’s most well known and farthest reaching nonprofit organizations.
Courtesy Diane Eustace / NSCD

NSCD in action

Starting today, the NSCD will host its biggest fundraiser of the year, the Wells Fargo Ski Cup, which runs through Sunday at Winter Park Resort. The ski cup raises awareness for people with disabilities and serves as the biggest fundraiser of the year for the NSCD.

Annually, the ski cup generates anywhere from $250,000-$300,000 to support the NSCD’s operations.

In this year’s cup, 27 corporate teams, each with an adaptive athlete on their team, will compete in Saturday’s races. Putting NSCD athletes on the corporate teams helps add an awareness component to the races, Petersen explained.

“They ride the lifts together. They eat lunch together. They win together. They lose together,” he said. “It’s neat because it’s a camaraderie where those corporate teams get to learn a little bit more about what’s going on not only at the NSCD but also with the individual. Sometimes they build lifelong relationships.”

On Sunday, there will be races between all the competitive athletes invited to this event, which is why they call it the World Disabled Invitational. As an eight-time winner at the Wells Fargo Ski Cup, Hall will be competing in events on both Saturday and Sunday.

“It’s always, I think, a great event to showcase what the program’s about,” he said of the Wells Fargo Ski Cup. “You get people from all walks of life. There are a lot of people within society and all over the world who have some kind of sickness or have become injured, and it’s not until they see that exposure (with an event like this) that they know there are other people in the world like me.

“There are some tough times at the beginning because you think there’s nobody else like you out there, but then you see what the possibilities are through a program like this.”

For more about the NSCD,

If you go

The Wells Fargo Ski Cup boasts the longest running professional ski race in the country and serves as a signature fundraiser for the National Sports Center for the Disabled.

Friday, Day One – Wells Fargo Ski Cup Weekend Begins:

All guests and athletes will arrive at Winter Park Resort.

AEC Challenge Race: Architects, Engineers and Contractors compete in an industry specific race, with the goal of winning the coveted “Outrigger Trophy” and bragging rights! AEC sponsors enjoy a private VIP lunch on Friday.  All AEC racers will also compete with the full range of sponsors teams in the Wells Fargo Corporate Challenge on Saturday, February 22, 2020.

Also on Friday, Corporate Challenge race teams take their qualifying runs. All racers MUST complete a qualifying run on Friday or Saturday morning of the event weekend. Racers are also encouraged to take advantage of our racer clinic with one of our NSCD Competition Center coaches. This is a great opportunity to get tips on racing technique. There is also a chance to experience hitting the slopes like one of our Competition Center athletes by demoing a sit ski. On Friday night, Corporate Challenge teams come together for a racer dinner. The Friday night dinner is an opportunity for all teams to mingle and meet with the NSCD athlete who will be on their team for the Corporate Challenge.

Saturday, Day Two – The Corporate Challenge:

The Corporate Challenge is the highlight of the event weekend. All teams are randomly grouped into heats. The top nine teams compete in the semi-finals and the top three teams move on to the finals. The NSCD Competition Center athlete on the top three teams win a cash prize to help them finance their training for the 2022 Paralympics.

Sunday, Day Three – Kids Snowplow Sprint and the World Disabled Invitational:

On Sunday the kids get in on the action! Kids of Wells Fargo Ski Cup guests, ages 5-12, race the same course as the professionals and are joined by mascots from Winter Park and Colorado sports teams in the Kids Snowplow Sprint. Capping off the weekend on Sunday is the World Disabled Invitational, where professional athletes from around the world compete for cash prizes in a race unlike any other.

Other weekend events include a two-day silent auction, 50/50 raffle, Wells Fargo hospitality tent, ice sculptures and more.

To reserve your Corporate Challenge Race Team today, or for additional sponsorship information please contact NSCD Special Events at 303-293-5311 or

— Provided by NSCD

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