Old friends getting together in Snowmass for National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic

The first of more than 350 disabled American military veterans take to the slopes of Snowmass Ski Resort this morning for the opening ceremonies of the 25th annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.

Participants come from every branch of service and although they include veterans from conflicts ranging back to the Korean War, most of the disabled vets come from more recent battles such as Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

For many of these men and women vets the week isn’t only about the downhill or cross-country skiing, the scuba diving, rock climbing or the snowmobiling or the many other activities led by the hundreds of volunteers instructors.

In addition to a week packed with recreational activities, it’s a time of getting reacquainted with friends not seen in a year and to meet new friends, to share stories of personal success and, yes, to reflect quietly on friends who aren’t here this year.

During its quarter-century of serving disabled veterans, the Winter Sports Clinic has become the world leader in rehabilitating veterans.

While the event has a national scope and reaches out to disabled veterans everywhere through the co-sponsorship of the Department of Veterans Affairs and Disabled American Veterans, at its core it’s a local event with its roots in Grand Junction.

Sandy Trombetta, then a physical therapist at the VA Medical Center in Grand Junction, initiated the first sport clinic in the early 1980s when he took a disabled vet skiing at Powderhorn Ski Resort.

Trombetta knew there were many benefits available to disabled vets through skiing and other winter activities but soon even he was impressed by the program’s popularity.

That one vet told another and another and it wasn’t long before Trombetta, now head of the medical center’s physical therapy department, had 90 vets in the program and more asking to join.

In 1991 the Disabled American Veterans became a co-sponsor and the event, which also is known as Miracles on a Mountainside, became the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.

Last year, the clinic attracted 353 participants from across the country, along with countless volunteers, 200 certified disabled ski instructors and several members of the U.S. Adaptive Ski Team.

The latter includes four-time Paralympian Chris Devlin-Young, paralyzed from the waist down in a plane crash in 1982 while serving with the Coast Guard in Alaska, who learned to ski from Trombetta 19 years ago.

The Winter Sports Clinic runs through Friday.

Powderhorn making end-of-season push: With a week remaining in its 2010-2011 ski season and reporting more than 7 inches of new snow, Powderhorn Ski Resort is offering four lift tickets for $100. The deal runs through Thursday and you must use the tickets the day of purchase.

Next year’s season passes are available at the year’s lowest prices. If you purchase next year’s pass now, you can use it for the rest of this season.

The resort has set April 3 as the closing date. More information at http://www.powderhorn.com.

More boating opportunities: While the recent weather might be more conducive to snowmobiling than waterskiing, Rifle Gap and Harvey Gap state parks will open for boating Friday.

In what’s become a regular part of entering any state or federal water in Colorado, all vessels must undergo in inspection for aquatic nuisance species prior to entering the water.

Information about inspection stations at these and other state parks is available at http://www.parks.state.co.us.

And finally, in case you’ve forgotten, your annual fishing license, the one you haven’t looked at since last fall, expires Wednesday.

You can fish year-round but the state dropped the calendar-year approach to licensing a few years ago and adopted an April 1 through March 31 license season.

An annual license is $26 for residents, $56 for nonresidents and $1 for seniors (64 and older).

Don’t forget to add $10 for the Colorado Wildlife Habitat Stamp.

Just one more thing to buy with that ever-shrinking tax refund.


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