GET OUT: New Heights

By on January 12, 2016

Celebrate our amazing ability to adapt this weekend.

Odie Pierce enjoys some air with a little help from the Teton Adaptive Sports program. (Photo: dirt myth photography)

Odie Pierce enjoys some air with a little help from the Teton Adaptive Sports program. (Photo: dirt myth photography)

Jackson, WY – For those looking for a different ski scene this weekend, the Teton Adaptive Sports Annual Adaptive Awareness Day followed by the Après Soirée FUNdraiser is the perfect double hitter to ensure fun with a purpose. Adaptive Awareness Day— held Saturday from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort — can fill you in on what this program is all about. After the riding is done, the family-friendly evening Après Soirée will be conveniently held in the Hotel Terra Ballroom at the base of the mountain.

What the heck is Teton Adaptive Sports all about, you ask? For the curious, more information can be found below.

Outdoor activities for all abilities

Teton Adaptive Sports is a nonprofit that formed in Teton County in 2005. This comprehensive program supports outdoor activities for people of all ages with any form of disability, providing access to a variety of sports ranging from whitewater rafting, hiking and paddleboarding in the summer to one-on-one ski and snowboard lessons in the winter.  Unlike most private instruction available in the valley, these lessons are subsidized by Teton Adaptive Sports to make them affordable for all people in the community. The organization also provides a wide array of specialized equipment designed to accommodate all sorts of physical abilities.

People make the program work

A variety of people work to ensure these recreational opportunities are available all year round. Lead players Jason Malczyk and Kurt Henry run the winter show, while Cherene Vanian has taken over coordination of summer activities. The resulting programs are rewarding for both athletes and instructors.

Pete Bartlett recounted the past seven years of his involvement with Teton Adaptive Sports. “This job is the greatest job on the hill hands down,” he said. “I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to share something they love so much with people who have been told,  ‘No’ or ‘Sorry you’re going to have to stay here while the rest of us go ______.’”

Long-time adaptive instructor Andy Gable added to this, explaining what drew him to be involved. “I wanted to help people realize their own human potential,” he said. “This organization is important to the community because it provides people with disabilities the opportunities to learn athletic skills, gain confidence for new experiences and have fun with others.”

Teton Adaptive Sports’ motto is one that inspires. “It’s not a disability, it’s a possibility.” Having been a part of the organization for the past five years, I have heard and witnessed many of these inspirational stories. Don Carr, who is entering his 31st year of adaptive instruction, reflected, “I’d have to say that my coolest experience was guiding a man with two prosthetic eyes from the top of Rendezvous Bowl and working with the mountain patrol in assisting a skier with no use of his legs into Corbett’s.”

These moments often happen with passersby not even noticing.

A few weekends ago, I hopped on the gondola with a snowboarder who was blind. We had just cruised down Gros Ventre and, with a little verbal guidance, the student stuck his first jump. A local gentleman joined us on the lift and conversed with the boarder, saying, “You crushed that air! Did you see the people after you totally eat it?” The kid replied jokingly, “No, man, I’m blind.”

In all seriousness, the Adaptive Sports Program pushes people to believe in themselves and achieve their own personal goals despite obstacles they may encounter. The keyword in this program is  “adaptive” meaning there is no absolute right way for people to participate in outdoor sports. Hence, the program focuses on the strengths of the individual, keeping in mind that safety and fun are high priorities.

If you are having a hard time wrapping your head around the equipment used by the adaptive program and want to learn more about it, come out to the Adaptive Awareness Day. The event is free and open to the public, so people can truly feel what it’s like to use a bi-ski, a three-track (one-legged ski) or even ski blind. I must say the equipment offers a pretty insane workout and trying it out can help you understand how much effort and skill is involved in using the gear. After training days with the adaptive equipment, I’m often sore in spots I never knew existed.

Après for a good cause

After the lifts shut down, head over to the Après Soirée. This event is a great opportunity to support a cause that reaches people of all ages. A $20 ticket allows you to socialize, indulge in catered delicacies and take advantage of a cash bar. It’s a family-friendly event with live music care of the Canyon Kids, a raffle, silent auction and games for children.

The raffle offers sweet prizes. You could win a pair of custom Igneous skis, a 10-day Jackson Hole Mountain Resort pass or a full pass to Grand Targhee Resort. The best part about this raffle is that you do not need to be present to win, because Teton Adaptive Sports really does adapt even if you can’t make it! PJH

More Information on Après Soirée

When: 3:30-7 p.m., Saturday

Where: Hotel Terra Ballroom located in Teton Village

Cost: $20 provides entry to event, one raffle ticket and free food. (The Après Soirée is free for kids 8 and younger.)

What: Music, food, silent auction and live raffle (need not be present to win.)

Raffle tickets: Available through any Teton Adaptive Sports instructor or through

About Elizabeth Koutrelakos

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