Firsthand Report: Embedded with the Wounded Warriors at Wintergreen Resort 2
Author thumbnail By Connie Lawn, DCSki Columnist

All right, the title is dramatic, but Wintergreen is a dramatic place. With its sweeping vistas of the undulating Blue Ridge mountains, a visitor gains inspiration and optimism with every view. We try to visit Wintergreen at least once a season, and would go more often, if it did not take three hours to get there from the Washington area. Maybe someday we will buy one of the beautiful Wintergreen condos, and then spend more time there. Wintergreen says it was voted the “best area ski resort for 2 years in a row by readers of Washingtonpost.com.” I agree, for the many facilities, the manicured runs (when the weather cooperates), and the variety of family activities. But, like all resorts, it can get very crowded on a weekend, and Saturday, January 23, 2010 was no exception. Sunday, the rain and thick fog discouraged all but the most gung ho. But, we still had a great weekend!

Trails were in remarkably good shape after an ice storm the day before. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

The reason for this visit was to ski with, and visit our friends who are involved in the Wounded Warrior programs. This was Wintergreen’s annual Wounded Warrior Weekend. They started one of the first such programs in the nation. This year, there were 22 warriors and 35 guests. The resort was festooned with yellow ribbons and huge banners which proclaimed “Welcome to our Wounded Warriors.”

My husband Charles and I attend as many of these events as we can, in different resorts in the country. We meet more of the warriors and their families each year, and are honored to feel we are part of their group. This event is also a joyous occasion - the warriors bring their families and friends, and they hit the slopes! Special equipment and instruction are provided for the warriors who have lost limbs, in some cases, or sustained grievous injuries. They are assisted by Wintergreen’s incredibly skilled and dedicated instructors. Michael Zuckerman started their adaptive program, and is away receiving even more training. 27-year old Massey Teel and other young people are running the program at this time. They were brought into it by Michael, who taught some of them in school.

Connie talks with Massey Teel, new director of Wintergreen Adaptive Sports. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

The non-adaptive skiers receive regular lessons, and there are games, competitions, and activities for all. Wintergreen contributes the facilities, and serves delicious buffet meals for the group. They are assisted by hundreds of volunteers, who open their homes and prepare gifts for the warriors and their children. There are major donations from the wider Mid-Atlantic community; it takes more than a village to make this happen.

Over the years, the disabled skiers and snowboarders have become so skilled, many are instructors in their own right. Most volunteer their services, and do not get paid for their teaching. The number of their students is growing, all over the nation. They know they are lucky to be alive, but most have endured numerous painful surgeries, and years of strenuous rehabilitation. The outdoor activities help them adjust to their new bodies and new lives. In addition to the skiing and snowboarding, there is a full range of summer sports. They can do anything a non-wounded person can, and often do so with more skill and passion.

Warriors and volunteers. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

While the warrior programs were going on, the rest of the mountain was also swinging! The weather was in the 40’s and partly sunny. Special races were underway for the younger set, with teams from Virginia and West Virginia competing. They were fast, fearless, and adorable, but best to get out of their way! Lines were long on Saturday, and we could not take as many of the runs we enjoy at Wintergreen. I managed a few on the Big Acorn/Eagles Swoop side, but could not make it to the black diamond Highlands. The snow was tricky - thick in many places, and then a few surprise patches of ice. The trees were coated with snow or ice, and were exquisite to behold. The next day, the Sunday rain melted much of the ice and it crackled as it crashed to the ground.

View from back porch, Highlands condo. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

Many of the trails and mountain ranges are visible from the condos, and we had an exceptionally beautiful, modern unit at The Highlands. The condos can be expensive, but make sense if you have a large group or family. It is always best to buy a package deal in any area. If you buy lodging, lifts, and rental equipment (if needed), you save money on the deal. You can also use the other facilities, such as spas and swimming pool. The condo we were in could sleep five or six, if you sacrifice privacy. There is a comfortable king size bed; two twins; two bathrooms, and a living room couch in front of the fire place. With a kitchen and dining room, it is easy to buy and serve your own food.

Sam Shaver, Wounded Warrior Weekend organizer, and Dana Quillen, VP Sales and Marketing. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

So try to remember my recommendations - avoid weekends, if at all possible, and look for package deals or specials. Most resorts list them on their websites. You will love Wintergreen, if you have a chance to visit. And, while you are there, pay a visit to the Adaptive Skiing hut on the mountain. They are good people, and would welcome your support for their lessons for the disabled and the wounded athletes.

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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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Reader Comments

DCSki Reader
February 2, 2010
This is a beautiful thing that fills me with respect, admiration, and awe for all involved.
Connie Lawn
February 2, 2010
Amen to your beautiful remarks! If you can, why not volunteer and get involved. Their Mardi Gras weekend coming up. Contact Wintergreen Adaptive Sports, or WAS. Let me know. Yours, Connie

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