Wintergreen and the Fourth Annual Wounded Warrior Weekend 1
Author thumbnail By Connie Lawn, DCSki Columnist

We were greeted by large banners which proclaimed “Welcome Wounded Warriors.” Yellow ribbons festooned the buildings, inside and outside. Many people walked around wearing yellow ribbons, in honor of those who have lost so much. We were all aware of those who died, in addition to the men and women who survived and are now struggling to live a new, fulfilling life with their altered minds and bodies.

Beyond the buildings were the overpowering, majestic Blue Ridge Mountains. Few resorts in the Atlantic region have the scope of views to be found in Virginia’s Wintergreen Resort. Hawks fly in the distance, below the peaks of the mountains. The sunrises and sunsets are breathtaking. No wonder Wintergreen draws the big crowds and wins numerous rewards. Most of the skiers and boarders come from Virginia, North and South Carolina. Many own or rent space in the condos, and come up each weekend for snow sports in the winter, and more activities in the other seasons. Wintergreen has always seemed to me to be a special Shangra La, three hours from the Washington area!

Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

In addition to the views, people are extra friendly, and smile a lot. They all say hello to strangers. The lines were super long during the crowded, popular weekend, but I did not witness any pushing, shoving, or nastiness. There might be some happy juice in the water, or something, but Wintergreen seems to bring out the niceness in people! They may inspire a new motto - Virginia is for lovers - and friends!

When we arrived Friday night, there were small American flags planted on the abundant, freshly made snow. Wintergreen was magnificent, as it always is! The Wintergreen family - which includes the Adaptive Sports and Wounded Warrior programs - does not take a stand on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But, they honor and support the warriors, as well as those who have other injuries and are active in adaptive skiing and snowboarding. Their mission is to help these special athletes enjoy snowsports, restore their bodies, and regain their confidence.

Participants of the Wounded Warriors Weekend at Virginia’s Wintergreen Resort. Photo provided by Tom Brown.

This Wounded Warrior Weekend, like the ones before, was an astounding success. Honors go to organizers Michael Zuckerman, Executive Director of Wintergreen Adaptive Skiing; Tom Brown, Director of the Wounded Warriors at Wintergreen; Bob Ashton, President of Wintergreen Partners, Inc.; and all the instructors, volunteers, and others who made it happen. A special mention is also due to Kirk Bauer and the other directors of Disabled Sports USA. They had the foresight to approach Michael Zuckerman years ago, and asked him to host the first Wounded Warrior Weekend in the region. It is a big job! Some of the many sponsors are also impressive - they include cartoonist Gary Trudeau (his Doonesbury strip has a very accurate feature about wounded servicemen and women). The Bama Works Fund of the Dave Matthews Band in the Charlottsville Area Community Foundation is also a sponsor, as is the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, and many others. An incredible list of supporters for a very worthy cause.

During this fourth WW Weekend, there were 21 warriors, with varying degrees of injuries. Most had lost one or two legs - some very recently. The adaptive skiers, boarders, or monoskiers (the ones who whiz by on sit-skis) have injuries due to accidents or birth problems. Among the special guests, at least five had post traumatic stress disorders, although most of the injured suffer life time stress from their ordeal. Each warrior had a number of instructors, helpers, or close friends and family members. All together, over a hundred people participated directly in this weekend. Director Tom Brown gave us the final statistics: 106 volunteer instructors, 100 volunteers, 21 warriors, 19 warrior guests, and 8 health care providers.

Lt. Col Dennis Walburn uses a new type of prosthesis with spring strut and shock absorber over a monoboard - the latest adaptation for above knee amputees. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

Some of the warriors had the latest prostheses from Walter Reed and civilian contractors. Lt. Col Dennis Walburn was skiing on a prosthesis that has a strut like a car with spring and shock absorber. He uses a monoboard (a wide ski with bindings for both feet) and outrigger poles. He is assisted by a graceful monoski instructor - Kevin King, who can also train on skis, but prefers the wide board.

The staff of Wintergreen Adaptive Skiing put to use the training they received at Breckenridge last month to provide the latest techniques and equipment for every injury. These warriors are all smart, strong, and motivated; they make us so proud of our military and so eager to give back to them for their sacrifices for us.

Manny Pina’s first weekend ski trip. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

The work also goes on. The annual Mardi Gras celebration is held on March the first. It is a lot of zany fun, and raises money for adaptive sports. You can buy clothes for the “thrift shop formal,” wear crazy outfits on the slopes, eat gumbo, and have a great time for a good cause. Contact info@skiwas.org if you want to be part of it!

During the weekend, the slopes were in good condition, and we had a lot of fun. Grooming and snowmaking went on day and night, but some trails were closed during the heaviest use of the snow guns. Wintergreen has 400 computerized snow guns, and can make smooth, light snow in a comparatively short span of time. Mornings are the best time to ski, of course, as they are in most areas. By the afternoon, the trails were harder packed and skied off in places. But, the sun came out, and the temperatures were glorious and mild - in the mid thirties in the afternoon. We were all thankful for the warmth, and shuddered when we remembered the bitter Eastern cold of the previous week.

There were 6 lifts and 22 trails open during our visit. We skied as many as we could - Eagles Swoop, Sunrise, Tyro (the last two were our favorites), Dobie, Cliffhanger, Wild Turkey, Devils Elbow, and Loggers Ally. I was not great on many of them, but had a blast and made it through the weekend with one fall. I try not to fall anymore; it takes much too much effort to get up!

The terrain parks and two tubing areas were also operating in full swing, and were well-utilized.

The sun begins to rise at Wintergreen Resort. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

Sunday was more fun than Saturday, because we got out early. Charles and I made several fast, uncrowded runs before 10 a.m. When the crowds grew, and our fingers got too cold, it was time to come in and say goodbye to our friends. I am not a morning person, but the best ski experiences I have ever had were in the early morning. It also helps to stay in a condo on the side of the mountain. We were in “The Vistas” which was very accurately named! We looked down at range after range of the rolling Blue Mountains. Their color was enhanced by the fact they were empty of natural snow (sadly). A shuttle bus took us to the ski areas, and we were down the mountain before nine.

It is no surprise that it is always best to ski during the week, if possible, in any area. If you can possibly slip off for a snow day, it is very rewarding. See if you can somehow make up your work or studies on the weekend. They do this often in some European countries, and it might be worthwhile to adopt ski days or weeks here too.

As I close, thank you again Wintergreen for a grand weekend. Special thanks to public relations coordinator Anne Marie Jones. We love your resort and, as Governor Arnie says, “we will be back!”

About Connie Lawn

When she wasn't skiing, Connie Lawn covered the White House as a reporter since 1968.

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DCSki Sponsor: Canaan Valley Resort

Reader Comments

Iwan
February 9, 2008
Thank you Connie to write such a great story about the Wounded Warrior Weekend. Since I heard about the project at Killington, VT at the PSIA / AASI snowsports management meeting I am very impressed with the program as well as with houw much PSIA / AASI helps.

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