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Deaf Camp opens the slopes

March 3, 2007

Sarah Gilman – Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

Fri 03/02/2007 09:00PM MST

Thanks to generous community support and the Aspen Camp for the Deaf, 31 deaf and hearing-impaired kids got a chance to test their skiing and snowboarding legs at Snowmass this week.

“Getting a group of deaf kids together is always wonderful,” said the camp’s program coordinator Clint Woosley, who is deaf himself. “A lot of deaf children live in isolated areas — they don’t have contact with other deaf friends. This is a chance to come and meet other deaf kids. Plus we live right next to Snowmass Mountain — wow!”

The camp is located on 15 acres of land in Old Snowmass, and offers stays in rustic cabins, as well as “extreme” winter sports instructions over two sessions in the winter.

The kids, who arrived Wednesday from as far away as California, Minnesota, and New Mexico, and as near as Grand Junction, have received daily instruction from a U.S. Ski Team coach, a gold medalist in snowboarding from the Deaf Olympics, and numerous other professional instructors. They’ve also dunked in the Hot Springs Pool in Glenwood Springs, and ventured forth last night for a full moon snowshoe tour and campfire.

“I’m really enjoying myself,” sighed 11-year-old Connor Baer of Denver’s Rocky Mountain Deaf School. “My favorite part was going snowboarding. Yesterday I struggled, but I finally learned how to stop and turn.” Baer added that he’s making a lot of new friends and will be back again for more next winter.

“The kids are having a blast out on the mountain,” agreed Erin Sloan, who also works for the camp.

But “the program would absolutely not be possible without all the support” from the community, said the camp’s executive director Judith Cross. Aspen Skiing Co. donated daily lift passes for the nearly 50 kids, volunteers, and instructors. Aspen Sports donated free rental equipment, and several restaurants including Paradise Bakery, Subway, Dominoes, and Gwyn’s High Alpine have donated snacks and meals. The Silvertree hotel also donated a conference room for the kids’ daily use.

In addition, several businesses and individuals donated scholarships to bring many of the kids to camp.

“Connor is one of 75 percent of the kids who needed a scholarship,” Woosley said. “The camp really appreciates the support. We would love to thank the community and the volunteers that make this happen.”