Firsthand Report: Wounded Warrior Weekend at Snowshoe Mountain Resort
Author thumbnail By Connie Lawn, DCSki Columnist

After five years of planning, the Challenged Athletes of West Virginia sponsored their first Wounded Warrior Weekend at Snowshoe Mountain Resort. Their hard work paid off - it was a tremendous success! The snow conditions also held up, and were good to excellent, depending upon the time of day and area. Everyone learned a lot and had a great time.

Nearly 40 people participated in the weekend. They included the regular staff members, instructors, and volunteers from the Snowshoe program, which is ably headed by David Begg. He told us five of the warriors were active duty Marines from Camp LeJune (they looked so young without their heavy military equipment!). The other visitors were from Tennessee, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia. They had various degrees of injuries, but several had lost legs. They all appeared to be skiing, snowboarding, or sit-skiing with great courage and skill.

Challenged Athletes of West Virginia Wounded Warrior Weekend included Marines from Camp Lejeune, NC and AF Sgt. Arnold W. Beard, shown here being fitted to a monoski for the first time. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

Dave said they hope to have other such warrior programs, in addition to those for the skiers and boarders disabled in other ways. He said there was incredible support from the staff, volunteers, and community. He told us the event created a really good feeling in the Snowshoe community.

Some of the athletes continue to experiment with their sport. Staff Sargent Karl Dorman has a knee disarticulation, or amputation at the knee, and was skiing for the first time with two skis and his new prosthesis. Before that he was snowboarding. He is active in the distribution of artificial limbs. He, his wife, and four children attended the event, and he has siblings still serving in Iraq.

It is difficult to list all who participated. But, special thanks to Communications Manager Laura Parquette, who did a great job, despite the flu! The warriors in the program included Karl Dorman, Arnold Beard, Shon Holler, Tyler Baker, Richard Caseltine, Dominico Washington, Roman Goddeau, Aaron Bourassa, and Dean Schwatz. Some of the special adaptive instructors and volunteers Bob Spencer, Becky Halioua, Nathan Magnusen, Denise Heffernan, Mark Tracy, Riley and David McDowell, Robert Martin, Dave Kennedy, Jeff Costin, Skeeter Porter, Brandi Garrett, Mike Smoot and the fabulous instructors who cooked and served the terrific food all weekend. Thank you all, and apologies to those left out or misspelled!

Wounded Warriors try out snowboarding for the first time. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

The weekend consisted of special instructions and free skiing or riding, generally in Snowshoe’s Silver Creek area (which is much less crowded than the larger Snowshoe area. Both are connected by free shuttle buses, and use the same lift passes). Many of the warriors are so skilled, they did not actually need instructors, and were far ahead of them on the snow. The sit skiers were especially fast and graceful. But, all the athletes had “snow buddies” or a group of volunteers to help them with their equipment, and assist in getting onto and off the lift, if needed. Again, some are so skilled and possess so much upper body strength, they need little help. Some skied or used snow boards with one leg, while others used their special, high tech prosthesis. Other athletes on the mountain appeared to be considerate and polite towards the special skiers and boarders. Adaptive ski programs are growing in this nation, and there is greater support for them in many areas. That is an important trend which must be encouraged! Most of these programs are privately funded, so support, contributions, and volunteer assistance are always welcome.

The Skiing was great!

Snowshoe lived up to its reputation as one of the finest resorts in the Mid-Atlantic region. It is too bad they are so far away from the Washington and Baltimore metro areas, and we wish there was regular shuttle bus service (to all the resorts, in fact). Thanks to the skilled driving of my husband and partner Charles, we made it in about 5 hours each way. He followed the most important rule - drive during daylight! Those steep, winding roads can be killers. Fortunately, the ice storm of the night before was not a major factor, since we left in mid afternoon. But, the thick fog in the lowlands, which yielded to clouds in the higher mountains, became very scary. The warriors told horror stories about their driving experiences. Snowshoe can be confusing at the best of times, even for those of us who had been there several visits before. If you are trying to find your lodging, when it is cold, snowy, windy, dark, and cloudy, it is not a pleasant experience. So, drive in daylight and enjoy the dramatic scenery. It is not called “wild, wonderful West Virginia” for nothing!

The trails were in great condition, and the snowmaking and grooming paid off. On Saturday, we thoroughly enjoyed Silver Creek, where the instructions were underway. There are some very fine lifts and trails there, and Mountaineer, Bear Claw, and Flying Eagle are advanced. The majority of the trails are designed for intermediates and beginners. There is also a nice large condo on the slopes, and the package prices are reasonable. For many reasons, it might be better to stay at Snowshoe’s Silver Creek area, ski there during crowded weekends, and take the quick shuttle bus to the main Snowshoe basin area when you want to go there.

New this year, the Sawmill Trail off of Widowmaker Lift. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

On Sunday morning, the sun was shining, the snow was perfect, and Charles and I were out early. We passed up the chance for free ski lessons - offered by the resort - to check out the new trails. We loved Sawmill! The moguls were just the way I liked them - medium sized and soft snow. I could not resist shouting “eh haw” everytime I jumped one! Widowmaker, Camp 99, and Sawmill Glades also looked like they were in terrific shape, as was most of the mountain, at that hour.

Then we took the shuttle bus over to the Western Territory, and took the infamous Upper Shay’s Revenge and Lower Cupp Run. Can you say fast? Wow! No wonder they are rated some of the most challenging and exhilarating runs in the East! I hope people from other parts of the country come and try them. I defy them to ever think Eastern skiing is easy after that. Definitely not for the faint of heart.

One more note about Snowshoe (and any other snow experience). It really pays to get a package deal, and check the various websites for specials. One day of skiing is really expensive (about $70 for a full weekend rate). But, if you get a package which includes a condo, ski lift, and sometimes rental equipment and instructions, it really pays. You can get packages for about $170 on weekends, and under a hundred during the week - again, there are a lot of specials. The condos are fabulous, with terrific views of the mountains and heavens (Snowshoe, like Wintergreen, is a resort built on the top of the mountain, to maximize the views and the fresh air). The condos have full kitchens and those magical, romantic gas fireplaces. There are saunas, swimming pools, exercises rooms, and indoor play areas in the resort. There are also a series of great restaurants, if you do not want to cook in. For the weekends, there are also Church services, which always take on a special beauty high in the mountains.

The Snowshoe Resort offers 60 trails, a 4,848-foot summit elevation, and a 1500-foot vertical drop. There is also snow tubing, terrain parks, snowmobile rides, and snowshoeing. In the summer, there is golf, biking, boating, and the usual round of summer activities in a magical setting.

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About Connie Lawn

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

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