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Miracles on a Mountainside

Gold Medal Vet to Coach
Vets at Clinic

Serving as an instructor and mentor at the clinic will be a Veteran with unique qualifications and background to inspire the Veteran athletes during the week long events.

Chris Devlin-Young, delivering the Pledge of Allegiance in the opening ceremonies on Sunday, March 27, had his life dramatically changed when he participated in the First National Disabled Winter Sports Clinic in 1986.

“That first clinic changed my life, and I hope that I can help make a difference in the lives of the Vets competing today.

“My goal is to inspire and help others with disabilities to realize their potential. The opportunities for athletes with disabilities are unlimited. They just need the courage and strength to reach out for help.”

In 1982, Devlin-Young was on a Coast Guard mission in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands when his plane crashed into a mountain. He suffered irreversible spinal trauma as he attempted to save his fellow crewmembers from the burning wreckage.

Today, Chris is the current World Super G Sitting Paralympic Champion, which he won in January at the 2011 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Alpine Skiing World Championships in Sestriere, Italy. Devlin-Young skis on a mono-ski, a bucket-like seat with suspension attached to a single snow ski.

As a member of the U.S. Paralympic team, Chris had his best season ever on the 2003-2004 World Cup circuit. Competing in the Slalom, Giant Slalom, Super G and Downhill, Chris had 14 podium appearances, 11 of which were gold medal performances. He finished second in the overall World Cup standings.

After being introduced to skiing and racing at the first VA Winter Sports clinic he made a personal promise to give back and coached the first race development camp for injured veterans. Devlin-Young says, “I have dedicated myself to learning all I can about disabled skiing and teaching that knowledge to others.”

When asked by ESPN what advice he would give someone who wants to take up skiing competitively, he replied with cool candor, “Run away. It’s really hard work. Paralympic caliber sport is hard work with no guarantee of success. But, the thrill of the chase, and sometimes the win, is ‘nectar from the gods.’ And it makes the wheelchair disappear if only for a little while.”

Chris Devlin-Young motivates and inspires disabled Veterans to overcome physical and emotional challenges. As a World and U.S. Paralympic alpine skiing champion, Chris is a role model to athletes with disabilities. His experience helps others learn to thrive in the face of adversity.

two men on mono-skis pause on a ski slope

Veterans compete at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic

Once again this year, hundreds of brave, determined Veterans will be making “Miracles on a Mountainside.”

More than 350 disabled Veterans will gather at Snowmass Village, Colo., for the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic from Sunday, March 27, through Friday, April 1.

The life-changing event promotes rehabilitation for Veterans who will take to the slopes with the latest adaptive ski equipment as they fight a new war, one to win back their independence.

The annual clinic is the world leader in promoting rehabilitation by instructing disabled Veterans in adaptive Alpine and Nordic skiing, and introducing them to a number of other adaptive recreational activities and sports.

“The opportunities for athletes with disabilities are unlimited. They just need the courage and strength to reach out for help.”

— Veteran Chris Devlin-Young,
gold medal paralympic skier

For many newly injured Veterans, including many injured in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Clinic offers their first experience in winter sports and gives them the inspiration to take their rehabilitation to a higher level.

Participation is open to U.S. military Veterans with qualifying disabilities such as traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, orthopedic amputations, visual impairments, certain neurological conditions and other disabilities.

Veterans with an inpatient or outpatient status with the Department of Veterans Affairs and active duty military servicemen and women are eligible.

Veterans participating will develop winter sports skills and take part in a variety of workshops and educational sessions that will positively impact their rehabilitative journey and readjustment in their communities.

The Winter Sports Clinic gives disabled Veterans the opportunity and access to test their new-found abilities and develop new lifestyle skills. Participating in the Clinic’s extreme outdoor adventures, Veterans will discover how to surpass any perceived limitations and learn to live life to the fullest.

The five-day clinic consists of downhill and cross-country ski lessons, a challenge race, adaptive sports workshops and educational classes, plus sponsored and self-directed alternate activities such as scuba diving, sled hockey, a climbing wall, snowmobiling and other activities.

More than 200 certified ski instructors for the disabled, along with several current and former members of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team, serve as ski instructors to meet the unique needs of the participants.

The clinic is sponsored by VA and Disabled American Veterans (DAV), with financial assistance from corporate sponsors and individual donors. The Grand Junction, Colorado VA Medical Center and VA’s Rocky Mountain Network host the event each year.