Big news at ski areas

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There is no handicap when a skier has the guts of an adaptive skier.  With some specialized equipment, a caring coach and more than a fair share of "can do," adaptive skiers can enjoy the slopes as much as anyone.Photo courtesy of Vermont Adaptive Skiing
There is no handicap when a skier has the guts of an adaptive skier. With some specialized equipment, a caring coach and more than a fair share of "can do," adaptive skiers can enjoy the slopes as much as anyone.

The popularity of skiing and snowboarding continues to grow in spite of naysayers and so-called “global warming.”  And one of the fastest growing segments is from an area that would surprise most people…handicapped skiers or “Adaptive Skiers” as they prefer to be called.

Killington, arguably one of the most popular ski destinations in the Northeast, has always had a comprehensive adaptive program.  Skiers are regularly seen zipping down the slopes with poles resembling boat outriggers.  The poles have small skis instead of a post, giving the adaptive skier balance.

Should you, by any chance, think these people need an assisting hand from an abled skier, think again.  Adaptive skiers more often than not will pass other skiers on the down slope. And they aren’t confined to the greens, but often work the blues and blacks as well.

The Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports and Pico Ski Education Foundation are about to open the doors to a new home, the Andrea Mead Lawrence Lodge at Pico Mountain.  The $1.3 million project will feature 6,000 square feet in a multi-use building between the Pico Ski Club and the base lodge.  It will be connected to both buildings with outdoor balconies and decks on the second floor.

The building is designed specifically for participants in Vermont’s adaptive programs, providing easy accessibility for all, regardless of any disability.  An elevator will connect the first and second floors.

The lodge is named for Olympic champion and Pico Mountain ski legend Andrea Mead Lawrence while the elevator and foyer are named for U.S. Paralympian Champion Sarah Will, who also is from Pico.

Famed Olympian Bode Miller and his family have donated $100,000 to the building project.  The first floor is named the Turtle Ridge Center and will be home to Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports.

The program is the largest year-round disabled sports non-profit organization in the state and offers the most diverse program opportunities and specialized equipment.  The aim is to offer an opportunity for independence and equality to adaptive skiers through access and instruction in winter aimed at Alpine skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports.

More than 500 volunteers will serve “clients” of all abilities with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities from all over the world.  There will be three locations: Pico Mountain at Killington, Sugarbush Resort and Bolton Valley Resort.

Ski areas in New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts also have comprehensive programs for handicapped skiers.  The idea at all locations is designed to show adaptive skiers that they are not limited by physical or mental disabilities.

One of the best programs in the country is located in Park City, Utah, and refuses to use the term “disabilities.”  Park City’s program is called the “Ability Center” and offers one of the most comprehensive programs available.

Next time at a ski area ask where their Adaptive Program is and watch these eager snow sport enthusiasts hit the slopes.  If there is no program, ask the operators “why not?”

Camelback Mountain, a top destination for day trip skiers, has changed hands.  EPR Properties has taken over the Tannersville, PA resort for some $70 million.

Camelback offers 160 acres of skiable terrain and also has a water park for warm weather.

There is also an adventure park, 40 tube lanes and a huge base lodge.  Some 900,000 visitors trek to Camelback annually.

CBH2O, the company that has operated Camelback since 2005, will continue and has committed to an additional 20-year term.

There will be some major enhancements, according to Art Berry and Ken Ellis, of CBH2O.

Camelback has been voted the top winter resort in Pennsylvania by Snow East Magazine for the past four years.  It boasts 37 trails, 15 lifts, 100 percent snowmaking coverage and 100 percent of its trails lighted for night skiing and snowboarding.

Its location, just minutes off Route 80 at Tannersville, has made it a popular destination.