Saturday, October 17, 2009

Top 3 Ski Areas in the State

The writer and her husband Craig, in Winter Park
The writer and her husband Craig, in Winter Park
(C) Access Anything

The three main things that Access Anything looks for in a ski area when we want to recommend it to fellow people with disabilities (PWD) are:

1. General access of the ski area base - parking, equipment storage, and location to lodging

2. Lodging - several price options with great access near the base

3. Getting around - on the mountain and in town; local accessible transportation as well as ski area ease. (Ski areas with multiple peaks and lifts that don't connect to each other, or those without accessible public transit aren't our first choice for PWD.)

Having been to all 9 of the ski areas that have adaptive programs in Colorado, we've picked out the top three for PWD- the newbies out there that want to try skiing, but don't want the hassles of figuring it all out on your own, the experienced skier but newbie to Colorado, or the expert skier who just wants the best snow and easiest way to get to it! These three areas best cater to PWD needs before you arrive, while you're here, on the mountain, and off the mountain.

A. Winter Park - the National Sports Center for the Disabled since 1970

While we hang our skis next door in Steamboat, we still can't argue that WP's ski area is hands-down the best all around for all levels of skiers with disabilities who are either traveling on their own or with their family and friends. Why? From start to finish, WP covers your needs like grandma's homemade afghan blanket.

The winning combination: What 40 years of experience will bring you:

  • General Access: You name it, in WP it's accessible. From restaurants to lodging to the ski area, any disability is covered here. Don't even call the restaurant, seriously. Now that kind of reliability is what makes the best, the very best.
  • Lodging: Their central reservations department can answer every question on lodging before you get there, helping you find lodging from Bed and Breakys, hotels, to condos. [800-453-2525]
  • Getting Around: Both the Paratransit [(970) 726-4163] and the free city shuttle can help you get around the town of Winter Park. On the mountain, the NSCD will give you a lesson or a ski buddy, and has made sure that the mountain is a fabulous place for PWD.

B. Steamboat Springs - 2nd oldest adaptive program in the state, 1976

While it might sound like we're biased by all the 'Boat plugging we do, it's not for naught, I promise. Steamboat Adaptive was established just 6 years after the NSCD, boasting 33 years of experience this year, and it's just getting better. Access Anything has made sure that the last five years have been dedicated to improvements around the base and training all ski area departments on sensitivity, equipment, and needs, and a new nonprofit STARS has just taken over the operation of the adaptive school to expand its sports programming to other sports. Access Anything also teams up with Adaptive Adventures to offer one of the best advanced, adult ski camps in the state every January.

  • General Access: The multi-level base area might seem daunting, but the 3D map online and 4-yr old way finding signage will get point you in the right direction from the free parking (just for PWD) to the base. The Gondola is accessible and its staff will store your monoski overnight.
  • Lodging: As with Winter Park, Steamboat's Central Res [800-922-2722] staff is well trained annually to handle PWD's needs and the plethora of lodging gives options to everything.
  • Getting Around: Every free city bus in Steamboat has a lift on it, and the city also provides a Paratransit. Go Alpine also have several accessible options that double as airport shuttles and in-town taxis.

C. Aspen - the Veteran's Choice

Home to Challenge Aspen, a relatively new program in the state (1995), Aspen has hosted the DAV Ski Week (Disabled American Veterans) for years, bringing thousands of disabled vets into the area to have some fun on the slopes. While the other ski areas and adaptive programs are just as great, we've found that Aspen is the one that has to slide into this tough #3 spot for it's ability to fit all three of our major needs.

  • General Access - While skiing IS split up in this area between 4 mountains, Snowmass is the one we send PWD to for its relations with Challenge Aspen, acreage of terrain, friendly lifts system and employees, and base area access.
  • Lodging - The best part about lodging in this area is that PWD get great support through Challenge Aspens donors, so call the adaptive program for the posh treatment whether you're getting a lesson or not. [970-923-0578]
  • Getting Around - All mountain shuttle buses have lifts here as well, and the parking is best in Lot 6 or 7 to get the closest to the slopes.

Know all this information and more with Access Anything: Colorado, the only guide to the state for PWD.

More on Colorado Adpative Travel Examiner

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