Ski Challenge gives Colorado Discover Ability members an enjoyable snow day

Carla Lawrence of Grand Junction skis around a gate Saturday on a sitski with help from Music Pace of Grand Junction during the Colorado Discover Ability Ski Challenge at Powderhorn Ski Resort.

Richard Jefferson didn’t post the fastest time, but he was all smiles afterward.

“That was the first time I ran the gate in three years, but it was fun,” he said.

The 48-year-old, who is paralyzed from the waist down, posted a combined-two-run total time of 78.17 seconds on his monoski Saturday in the Colorado Discover Ability Ski Challenge benefit race at Powderhorn Ski Resort. His fastest run was 38.55 seconds.

“It’s not so much me having fun,” Jefferson said. “I have fun watching other people have fun. To see the smile on these kids’ faces is so cool, it’s priceless. All the money in the world can’t buy those smiles, in my opinion. That’s what I like most about this event.”

Jefferson was one of 76 participants in the event for anyone age 6 and older. Each participate was allowed two runs on the Giant Slalom course on the lower part of the Wonderbump run.

“We have people that have never raced before,” Event Coordinator Donna Iovanni said. “We had some that just wanted lunch and a lift ticket. They didn’t want to race, but wanted to support it.”

The event was a fundraiser for Colorado Discover Ability (CDA), which provides programs for people of various physical and mental capabilities such as skiing, river-rafting, bicycle rides, exercise classes and water skiing.

“This is a great opportunity for our clients to ski with the general public and show they can ski just as good and sometimes better than able-bodied people,” CDA President Steve Gunderson said. “It is an uplifting thing for them.”

Adaptive ski coach and instructor Martin Wiesiolek was the chief of the race and noted some of the adaptive skiers were just as fast, if not faster, than some of the adult and children participants.

“A few of them were better than most,” Wiesiolek said. “Outdoor sports is a great equalizer. There is no difference between you and your skiis. Over the past nine years, I don’t see much difference. It’s just me.”

Jefferson, 48, didn’t participate in any sports until after his spinal cord was severed in a motorcycle accident 20 years ago.

“I went two years of just being, ‘screw the world,’ ” he said. “I didn’t want to be seen in public, then I met a really nice lady in a wheelchair that did wheelchair aerobics. She got me involved in swimming and tennis.”

From there, Jefferson began racing and won wheelchair races.

Then, he tried skiing and was hooked.

He was encouraged to be a certified instructor and became the first monoskier east of the Mississippi River and South of New York to be an adaptive skier on a monoski at Beech Mountain, N.C.

“I heard a saying from Dr. Seuss I can’t get out of my head and I tell all my students,” he said. ” ‘If you’ve never done it, you should. Having fun, and fun is good.’

“It’s been a nice ride. I have no complaints. Yeah, I wish I could walk again, but I’d just be working, eating and sleeping.”


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