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Pandemic-thinned service member event at Wintergreen keeps up slopeside therapy

Pandemic-thinned service member event at Wintergreen keeps up slopeside therapy

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WINTERGREEN

A bit smaller and with a bit less to-do because of the pandemic this year, Wintergreen Adaptive Sports’ Wounded Warriors Weekend event still gave 10 veterans the chance for some quietude and spectacular views on the slopes Saturday.

The program, in its 17th year, typically gives about 25 wounded veterans and their families free lift tickets, meals, lodging, special instruction and specialized equipment depending on a person’s needs.

The Wintergreen Adaptive Sports team decided to keep up its marquee event this year with fewer participants and by limiting the program to just the service member and not members of their family. It’s a bit of a shame, said Mike Mather, media coordinator for Wintergreen Adaptive Sports, that the pandemic coincided with a “record-setting snow year.”

This season, Mather said the close quarters of the Wintergreen Adaptive Sports building and safety demands have narrowed lessons down to three participants at a time, some of them requiring more than one trainer. With that in mind, staff members contacted some regular participants at the event and some participants declined to go it alone with the safety limitations in place, bringing this year’s roster to 10.

Paul Ashcraft, a return participant who’s taken part in similar adaptive snow sports programs elsewhere in the country, said it’s nice to enjoy the mountain and speak to other service members.

“It’s a great opportunity to just get out and get some fresh air,” he said.

He descended the slopes seated in a bi-ski, which has two specially designed skis in a wide setting, and while guided by a ski instructor. Other instructors go down with him to ensure the path is clear and safe.

“I did a lot of skiing before this,” he said. “So I was telling the guys during the last run we did: I could feel my legs kind of pushing into the turns like they would if I had skis on.”

Tim Roadcap, another seasoned participant on the slopes, spent part of Saturday trying some spins on a snowboard. He said he’d participated in a few different adaptive programs for service members while stationed in California in the U.S. Marine Corps, and found Wintergreen when searching for similar programs in Virginia after moving to Waynesboro.

“For me, it’s therapeutic because I love the snow and being out here — and being in this type of environment helps with anxiety and stuff like that,” he said.

He said the weekend also is a great chance to bond with fellow veterans and his daughter, who skied alongside him Saturday.

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