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History Stories

Miracles on a Mountainside

A Winter Sports Clinic Veteran skis down a snowy hill on a sit-ski. Text reads: National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.

Veterans with disabilities have been carving their path on the snowy slopes of Colorado for decades. Defying the odds, these warriors exemplify resilience and how the freedom of VA adaptive sports empowers those with limited mobility to keep thriving.

This inspiring VA winter sports event started with a recreational therapist, a Veteran in a wheelchair and a wild idea.

Let’s go back to 1982.

Thinking of new ways to support his patients, Sandy Trombetta, a recreational therapist from Grand Junction VA Medical Center, looked to the mountains for inspiration. Trombetta had learned about an adaptive skiing program held at nearby Powderhorn Mountain Resort and convinced a once-active Veteran to learn the sport. The Veteran, who lived with an autoimmune disorder that restricted his mobility, joined Trombetta at Powderhorn. He skied with the help of adaptive equipment and instructors and Trombetta learned right alongside him. Despite numerous falls, neither gave up.

Word spread about Trombetta’s work. Over the next five years, nearly 100 Veterans of different physical abilities skied Powderhorn with him. That first Veteran Trombetta took skiing in 1982, competed in a summer Veteran’s wheelchair sporting event in 1985. The Veteran had such positive things to say about Grand Junction’s program, it got VA’s attention.

In 1986, VA created the Winter Sports Clinic, hosted by Grand Junction VA Medical Center. The following year, the first Winter Sports Clinic welcomed nearly 90 Veterans from 27 states, supported by a staff of roughly 20. The clinic emphasized the importance of physical activity for everyone, regardless of ability and was dubbed “Miracles on a Mountainside.”

As the Winter Sports Clinic grows, so does its impact. In 1991, Disabled American Veterans, or DAV as it’s better known, joined as a co-presenter with VA, and programming expanded. Snowmass became the Winter Sports Clinic site in 2001 after a brief stint at Crested Butte. And, since 2006, a partnership with the U.S. Olympic Committee has offered an advanced event, training potential candidates for the U.S. Disabled Ski Team and Paralympics.

Today, the Winter Sports Clinic continues to promote and celebrate the triumph of the human spirit, welcoming Veteran participants, their families and caregivers from around the country to Snowmass every year.

For more information about the history of National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, please visit www.wintersportsclinic.org/history.

Audio provided by Autio.com