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Skiers stand proudly with their medals at the ARCH end-of-year awards ceremony.
"For Jackie, it can be hard to walk a block without pain," explains her dad. "So when she said she wanted to ski, I was worried. She has cerebral palsy, but on the mountain, she's free. At first I didn't think she could make it down, but now I see she's capable of a lot more than we thought. It's beautiful to watch her."
Seventeen year-old Jackie smiles and adds, "The best part is the confidence I get looking back up what I just skied down. It's usually steep – and then I feel like I can do anything."
“On the mountain, you can't tell the difference between someone who's disabled and everyone else,” explains 14-year-old skier Jessica, who has cerebral palsy. “Everyone falls. Here, I have the freedom of not being different. And it builds a ton of confidence and makes me realize I'm more able to do lots of things, like go to overnight camp."
Last summer, Jessica was away from her family for a week of river rafting, horseback riding, biking and building more confidence. "Without skiing, I would have never had the confidence to go to camp," adds Jessica.
A specially trained volunteer instructor uses adaptive equipment to help this skier find success on the slopes.
Kaley: Working on Her Moguls
“On the bus ride up to the mountains, we socialize, we watch movies, we eat candy. But when we get there, we get to work," says 14-year-old skier Kaley. For Kaley, who has cerebral palsy, this year was all about better parallel turns, faster racing and strategies for moguls.
For other kids, it was getting to the top of Mary Jane, learning their way around the mountain, or simply not falling, all the while building incredible confidence. Confidence serves these kids well off the slopes, too.
"There's a self-confidence that carries over in all kinds of aspects of Kaley’s life," says Kaley's mom. "After a ski week, she walks a little taller, stands a little straighter. You can see it; it's obvious. You lose that sense of disability on the mountaintop – and this year, when we skied as a family, she passed her brother on the slopes."
"For kids who go through the world feeling like they're exceptional, it's incredible to find a place where they can be one of many – and that's what Evan found here," says his dad. "This is the first place he found in his life where he felt completely accepted as himself."
And though his first season as a skier was mostly about falling down and getting back up again, 10 seasons later Evan graduated from the program, having skied his fair share of Winter Park. "With the help of this program, Evan sprouted wings."
Learn more about Adaptive Recreation for Childhood Health.