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While the world’s best winter sports athletes have spent the last months of 2016 gearing up for Dew Tour, which takes place December 8 to 11 in Breckenridge, organizers have been busy diversifying the event’s offerings. That includes the return of ski and snowboard Streetstyle competitions, a new Team Challenge event, and the addition of the Dew Tour Experience, a four-day celebration of music, art, and action sports.
But of the many changes athletes and attendees can expect during the tour’s ninth installment, the most notable is the creation of an adaptive slalom—a first-of-its-kind event created via a partnership between the tour, TEN: The Enthusiast Network, Toyota, and Copper Mountain-based Adaptive Action Sports (AAS).
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“I have partnered with Toyota for quite a few years,” says Amy Purdy, a 2014 Paralympic bronze medalist and co-founder of AAS, the first nonprofit focused on creating snowboarding and skateboarding opportunities for those with permanent physical disabilities, including adults, children, and wounded veterans. “Our partnership is really based on innovation and taking things in a different direction—paving the path. And obviously Toyota is a partner of Dew Tour, an event [AAS is] always at.”
As a double leg amputee and Dancing with the Stars competitor, it seems natural that Purdy would be the one to plant the seed for this event. However, the Paralympian gives credit to her husband, Daniel Gale. As the co-founder and executive director of AAS, Gale reached out to Toyota about introducing an adaptive boardercross or banked slalom event at Dew Tour, and Purdy says the company quickly jumped on board.
Purdy and Gale were charged with organizing the historic competition, which will see 23 athletes (13 men and 10 women) compete on a banked slalom course at the Springmeier run. Banked slaloms typically see athletes navigate their way down a winding course of various sized hills, wedged jumps, and banked turns, among other features.
The competition’s lineup was chosen by Gale and reflects the highest-ranked para-snowboarders by the International Paralympic Committee, the sanctioning body of all paralympic snowboard competition. Participants include Bibian Mentel-Spee, winner of the first women’s Paralympic gold in para-snowboard, and Evan Strong, the 2014 Paralympic gold medalist in para-snowboard cross. The athletes will compete on a course designed by Purdy and Gale—an experience that was both familiar and exciting.
“It’s typical in the sense that when building boardercross or banked slalom courses, it’s really about getting creative,” Purdy says. “So definitely there are times when organizations like [Adaptive Action Sports] can be involved in the design of the course. But this is pretty unique as far as Dew Tour coming to us and saying, we want you to really be a part of the design of this course.”
“For me that’s really, really exciting,” Purdy continues. “I love the creative side of this. A lot of times I’m just an athlete. My husband tends to organize everything, so for me it’s really exciting to be involved with the creation of this course.”
Ultimately, Purdy hopes the competition will provide a chance to spotlight the resilient and powerful adaptive sports community while introducing more people to AAS, which is the only program in the country directly training U.S. paralympic snowboarding athletes.
“If any little kid who has a disability is watching Dew Tour they’ll now see adaptive athletes—athletes who have a prosthetic leg or are missing an arm—competing at this professional level,” says Purdy. “Hopefully they’ll know that they can do this, too, and they’ll have a way to do that by learning about our organization.”
If you go: The Dew Tour runs from December 8 to 11 at Breckenridge Ski Resort. The adaptive slalom competition takes place on Friday, with the women hitting the slopes from 9:45 to 10:30 a.m., and the men competing from 1:15 to 2:30 p.m. Find Dew Tour’s complete schedule at dewtour.com, and learn more about Adaptive Action Sports at adacs.org.