Firsthand Report: Wounded Warrior Weekend at Wintergreen 1
Author thumbnail By Connie Lawn, DCSki Columnist

Soldiers who have sacrificed so much for their country get some pleasure, rehabilitation, and exercise at these glorious Wounded Warrior events. January 22-23, 2011 was the seventh at Wintergreen, and they have led the field in these events from the start.

Wounded Warrior Weekend at Wintergreen Resort. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

Wintergreen Adaptive Sports (WAS) works closely with Disabled Sports USA and other groups to sponsor the gatherings. But they are aided by hundreds of volunteers, who help with the lessons, share their condos with the Vets and their families, cook delicious food, and help out in many ways.

E-6 Brian Pearce says he’s not a blind skier, he’s a snowboarder! Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

The lessons are taught by the skilled instructors - many of whom have taught disabled athletes for years. The WAS Cabin on the mountain is equipped with sit skis, poles with mini skis on the tip (known as four trackers), skis, snowboards, and a variety of equipment to loan to the athletes. These men and women have really been through it. Some have lost arms, legs, eyesight, or hearing. Many suffered brain injuries or post-traumatic stress. But they remain strong, brave, and as positive as possible. In fact, the theme of this year’s event was “New Possibilities.” It is held during Armed Forces Weekend. Yellow ribbons are festooned everywhere, and some American flags flutter on mailboxes.

Retired Captain Matt Staton, Staff Assistant to the Secretary of the Army, greets Marine Darrin Snyder. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

This year’s program was run largely by Sam Shaver, the Team Lead; Tom Brown, the Executive Director of Wintergreen Adaptive Sports; and amazing 28-year old Operations Manager Massey Teel. But they are backed by a cast of hundreds; all hands are on deck for this community effort. This year there were 22 wounded warriors and 43 friends or family members. Many brought their children with them.

Massey Teel (left), a recreational therapist and Overall Operations Director, consults with Sam Shaver, “Wounded Warrior Weekend Warthog Wascal” of Wintergreen Adaptive Sports. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

The programs receive some limited grants when they are available. But they rely on contributions and volunteers. Wintergreen has a great fund raising event - The Mardi Gras which this year will be held on March 5 and 6, 2011. It is fun and zany - complete with crazy costumes and kayak races on the snow. Again, it is a community effort, and some of the warriors will also return for the Mardi Gras. Anyone can join the fun - check out the Wintergreen web site for details and prices to rent condos. The condos can be a good deal, if you rent them for a group and family. They are beautiful, well maintained, and have million dollar views of the ski area, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the forests outside your balcony. The sunsets and sunrises from the condo areas will make a believer of anyone!

There is a very efficient system of shuttle buses from the condos to the slopes or the spa, and they run on time! Better than driving. By the way, if you do not know the area, arrive in daylight. It can be hard to find your lodging in the dark. It can also be pretty cold and windy - Wintergreen Resort is built high on top of the scenic mountains.

Local affiliates of the major television networks showed interviews with warriors and Tom Brown, Executive Director of Wintergreen Adaptive Sports. Photo provided by Charles Sneiderman.

When we arrived, it was cold at Wintergreen, but slightly warmer than the Washington area. The drive down was about 3 hours, and the highways and mountain roads were clear. The ski slopes and terrain parks were in fantastic condition! They were hard packed of course, and very fast. But they were a testament to Wintergreen’s snowmaking ability. The forests and fields were brown and dry. But the slopes were gleaming, with more snow made each night. Charles and I tried most of the runs between us, but he took the diamonds on the Highlands - the Cliffhangers and Wild Turkey. I prefer the intermediate ones on the Big Acorn side, especially Tyro and Eagles Swoop. Wide, well-groomed, and Western in their feel, but with a breathtaking view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

We enjoyed watching the riders on Plunge Tubing, and viewed the daredevil flyers on the Fun Park. Not our thing, but looks exciting! Tubing is fun for all ages, and there is a mini tubing park, a magic carpet, and a little play area for the tiny tots to learn. In a few years, they learn fast and move over to the racing teams.

There are so many good things about Wintergreen, but one of my favorites is the warm Southern hospitality and the general attitude. Everyone just seems so nice - even those of us coming down from Washington and Baltimore seem to mellow when we arrive. Perhaps we are tempered by the fine visitors from Richmond, Charlottesville, the Carolinas, and other areas. They were polite, even in the usual weekend crowds. But, as usual in any ski area - take time off during the week if at all possible, and get in touch with nature!

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
January 28, 2011
BRAVO ZULU to Wintergreen!

Ski and Tell

Snowcat got your tongue?

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