Wells Fargo Ski Cup supports adaptive athletes
Skier Kyle Moxley will compete at the NSCD's signature fundraiser at Winter Park Resort
Iraq War veteran Kyle Moxley has found a new way to use his skills to represent his country – competitive skiing. Moxley, who trains with the National Sports Center for the Disabled, has gone from simply trying to recover from his combat injury, to competing on the international adaptive ski circuit. From Feb. 24-26, Moxley will join other professional skiers and the corporate sponsors who fund their training at the Wells Fargo Ski Cup.
Now in its 47th year at Winter Park Resort, the Wells Fargo Ski Cup is the longest running professional ski race in the country. It’s also the center’s signature fundraiser of the year. Each year, the Ski Cup brings in over $250,000 to support summer and winter programs for children and adults living with disabilities. The event will include four races – the Corporate Challenge, Kids Snowplow Sprint, AEC Challenge and World Disabled Invitational.
“The Wells Fargo Ski Cup is where we get to actually meet the people who help us,” said Moxley, who will race in the fundraiser for his fourth year in a row. “It’s so good for us.”
Road to recovery on the resort’s slopes
Participating in the ski cup is more than just a competition for Moxley. It’s a way for him to honor the organization that helped transform his disability into an ability.
“When I was in the military, I always wanted to represent the U.S. in everything I did,” he said. “Now I can still do that with being injured.”
While serving in Iraq as a U.S. Army infantry specialist, Moxley was injured by a roadside bomb in 2004. Shrapnel struck his right arm, almost severing it. He was transported to Brooke Amy Medical Center in San Antonio, where medical professionals saved his arm from amputation. They removed nerves from his right leg, attaching them to his right arm. The groundbreaking procedure restored some function in his arm, but he lost function in his right leg.
Moxley then began the arduous road of limb salvage rehabilitation. He decided to do everything in his power to become active again, including sports.
“I honestly tried everything,” he said.
Ten years after his injury in Iraq, Moxley strapped into a snowboard at the Keystone Adaptive Center at Keystone Resort. The weeklong snowboarding clinic was offered through Team Semper Fi, a veteran’s organization.
“It did not work out well,” he said. “I did well, but I got a lot of bruises; I got banged up more than I wanted to.”
His adaptive journey turned around in 2015 when he met Scott Olson, coach of the National Sports Center for the Disabled’s Alpine Ski Team, at a veteran’s camp.
“Scott was like, ‘You know what, skiing might do you better,’” Moxley said. “It just stuck, and I was able to go further and faster on skies than a snowboard. I realized that when I skied, it was like my mind was just free. I didn’t have to think – there was no trauma I was thinking about; it was freedom, it was great.”
Moxley honed his new skill at the center in Winter Park Resort. He had never skied competitively before, but his passion for the sport grew with each lesson he took. He eventually moved to Paonia, Colorado, to train with the center full time.
“I have been progressing ever since. It’s amazing what you can do when there’s no static in your mind,” he said. “The snow is it – you can always focus on one thing, and it’s the snow and having fun.”
As an adaptive, stand-up skier, Moxley has been classified to downhill ski through the International Paralympic Committee.
During ski season, he secures lodging by Winter Park Resort to train five days a week. His intense training regime paid off in the 2021-22 season, when he skied in two international events.
In January, he competed in the World Para Snow Sports Championships in Lillehammer, Norway, then competed in the Para Alpine Skiing World Cup at Åre Resort in Sweden.
He added that he gives thanks to “the coaches and all the sponsors that make this possible … (so) I was able to qualify and compete at that level.”
For the 2022-23 season, he has been selected for the U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing Development Team, which qualifies him for the world championships that are going on now.
“I want more training before from I jump into going overseas … Last year, when I went to the world champs and world cup, I just winged it,” he said. “It wasn’t pretty, but it was a wonderful experience. It gave me the opportunity to see a whole different side of ski racing.”
This year, he has concentrated on competitions in North America. So far, he has won three gold medals in Canada. Most recently, he won two silver medals on Feb. 3 at the Huntsman Cup in Park City, Utah, an International Ski and Snowboard Federation event.
“What the NSCD has literally done for me is they’ve taken me from nothing and now I can ski overseas; I’m on Team USA and have a whole new goal in life,” he said. “My goal was just to overcome my disability – my adaptability – but now I have a new perspective.”
Part of this perspective shift has been making connections with his fellow athletes and coaches at the center, who have become like a second family for him.
“Everybody helps everybody out,” he said. “We focus on the fun part of skiing while also capitalizing on the competition.”
He has also branched out to teaching new adaptive skiers, getting his racing coach license.
“Not only am I on the competition side, I can see what the coaches see,” he said, adding he tries to inspire beginning adaptive skiers.
He explained that everyone’s end goal is winning, “but if it isn’t fun, there’s no freeing of the mind. If you’re not smiling, you’re not skiing!”
Finding community at the Wells Fargo Ski Cup
Moxley has traveled from Utah, to Canada, to Scandinavia for skiing competitions. But he stated that “one of the best (events) I’ve ever seen” is closest to home at Winter Park Resort.
“At the Wells Fargo Ski Cup, we’re actually able to talk to the sponsors, tell them our stories, interact with them,” he said. “It brings us a lot more benefit than people realize.”
During the Corporate Challenge on Saturday, Feb. 25, one professional athlete from the center is chosen to join a five-person team made up of employees of corporate sponsors. This year, there are 27 sponsor teams.
“It’s the best time, honestly,” Moxley said. “For the four times I’ve raced with Wells Fargo Ski Cup, I’ve been on different teams each time. We’re not worried about competition because we’re just having fun as a family.”
The athletes get to have dinner with the sponsors on Friday evening, then go out the next morning to teach them the best ways to ski the course for the Corporate Challenge.
“It’s awesome because we’re able to give them tips as (they are) new skiers on the racecourse,” he said. “It’s so incredible because we actually get to give back while meeting the people who’ve made so much possible for us.”
The athlete on the top three corporate teams wins a cash prize to help them finance their training for other competitions.
“I was able to use the funds from the last time I won to go to Europe,” Moxley said.
While he appreciates the monetary benefit, he explained what he enjoys most about the ski cup is the sense of community.
“When I got out of the military, I was not a social person. We have to step out of our boundaries and be like, ‘Ok, I need to talk and interact,’” he said. “It’s become a great family here … By the end of the event, we’ve got phone numbers we can call if we need anything. I’ve met some very good friends so far from it.”
Community-wide and corporate involvement
Kim Easton, CEO and president of the National Sports Center For the Disabled, agreed that the social aspect of the ski cup is what makes it unique.
“It’s really fun because over the years, the different corporate sponsors have really built up personal relationships and lifelong friendships with those athletes that have been assigned to their team,” she said.
The second race that athletes compete in is the World Disabled Invitational. This is one of the few professional ski races where international athletes compete against others who have different adaptabilities than they do. Some of these athletes are former Paralympians.
“Everybody does trial runs that set their pace,” Easton said. “Someone who may be racing in a sit ski, someone may be a three-track skier, and the third racer may be someone with a visual impairment … the gates open based on their preset time. The athletes have a fun time because they never get to race each other like that.”
The invitational caps off the weekend’s fundraiser on the afternoon, Feb. 26, and the Kids Snowplow Sprint is on the same day.
“It’s just for fun; all of the elite athletes attend for the kids,” she said, adding that the mascots from Winter Park Resort, the Denver Broncos and Colorado Rockies will often participate, cheering on the young racers.
A fairly new race to the roster, the AEC Challenge follows the Snowplow Sprint. Architects, engineers and contractors who are sponsors compete in this industry specific race, with the goal of winning the Outrigger Trophy.
The whole event takes place at the Lower Hughes trail beside the gondola.
“Anybody in the community can walk by … and partake in the festivities,” Easton said. “It’s a great opportunity for the participants, as well as just the general community that’s (watching) at the base of Winter Park, to see our mission in motion because when you see these elite athletes competing it’s just outstanding.”
In addition, anyone who is at the resort during the ski cup can purchase 50/50 raffle tickets. The raffle will take place by the racetrack on all three days.
“The winner receives 50% of the pot and the center uses the other 50% toward our fundraising goal,” she said. “Another way people in the community can get involved is we do a very large silent auction … there are all sorts of exciting things that our amazing corporate partners donate for us to raffle off.”
Community members can visit NSCDauction.com to bid on items, including custom skis, snowboards or split boards, a trip to Deer Valley, Utah, Club Level Denver Broncos tickets and more.
Easton also recognized Wells Fargo Bank as their signature sponsor. This year, Susan Mayo, Wells Fargo’s Senior Managing Director, and Heather Hunt-Ruddy, Head of National Sales, will attend alongside nearly 2,000 employees and clients.
“We’ll have a whole weekend of watching amazing ski racing and hearing inspiring stories,” said Hunt-Ruddy. “I think it is one of the coolest things that happens in this country that not many people know about … We are thrilled and honored to once again be sponsoring this event.”
The ski cup is Wells Fargo’s longest-running corporate sponsorship. Not only is Hunt-Ruddy excited to watch the professional skiers fly down the hill, she’s also planning to take some runs herself.
“I might have even found a pair of skis – I am middle-aged and slow, but I will be there!” she said, adding that some Wells Fargo team members will get up on skis for the first time to participate alongside athletes like Kyle Moxley.
“It is my absolute favorite event every year because it so heartwarming and it’s inspiring … there are really impressive skiers,” Hunt-Ruddy said. “I always leave reinvigorated and reminded that people overcome unbelievable adversity to do remarkable things.”
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