It takes at least two people to help lift and strap Cheryl Wilson into her mono-ski (also called a sit-ski), which resembles a Star Wars pod racer with its angled chair mounted on top of a single ski. Once off the lift—a feat in and of itself—Wilson uses her two ski poles (or outriggers) to propel herself down the steepest of runs.
A veteran who was paralyzed in a car accident while on military duty in 2000, Wilson has been skiing as part of the adaptive ski program at the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC) for nearly two years. The BOEC started as a community effort in 1976 and offers numerous year-round adaptive programs, but it's best known for the high-quality ski instruction.
The mono-ski, which requires incredible arm and core strength, has been a challenge for Wilson. She started out on green runs, but in less than two years she has progressed to skiing the easier black trails. Though apprehensive at first, mostly about mastering getting on and off the chair lift, Wilson's instructors are always around to help ease any concerns. When Wilson wipes out (like all skiers do), her two instructors are close behind, helping her right herself again. Her goal? To make the Paralympic ski team in 2018.
Gene Gamber, director of the BOEC, is in his 27th season with the adaptive ski program. He began as a volunteer but soon discovered his aptitude for teaching. He recognizes that the BOEC is just one part of Colorado's adaptive ski industry, and that together these programs make Colorado a leader in adaptive recreation. “It gives back to skiing, which drives our whole livelihood," Gamber says. "It allows us to share with others what we really love about our community.”
Get Involved: Every winter the BOEC ski program trains dozens of volunteers. Some days the lessons require up to 30 people lending a hand. Depending on your skill level, you'll likely need three training sessions prior to hitting the hills with the skiers.
—Image courtesy of BOEC and Cheryl Wilson