Cross country skiing, Nordic biathlon, curling, sled hockey, and snowshoeing were some of the sports that a group of 40 to 50 veterans had the opportunity to experience during the first Paralympic Experience for Veterans event at Snow Mountain Ranch on Monday, Jan. 14.
The event was hosted by the National Sports Center for the Disabled in hopes of engaging veterans to incorporate sports and recreation into their lifestyle.
"This is a grass roots opportunity for veterans with disabilities to see what opportunities are there for recreation and competition," said Erik Petersen, director of the Competition Center for the NSCD.
The NSCD already has a number of veterans that work with them including Dan Cnossen, a lieutenant in the Navy Seals, who recently won first place in a US Adaptive Nordic Biathlon National race.
The event at Snow Mountain Ranch was meant to introduce veterans to the opportunities that exist beyond rehabilitation and recovery and to give them the chance to test the waters of various sports.
Many of the veterans probably won't continue on to compete in the sports they tried out on Monday, but now they are aware there are opportunities to be had in the mountains whether they choose to compete or not. They also know the NSCD is a venue they can use to participate in these sports.
"It's about strengthening our connections with the veteran community and giving them a day they deserve," said Ashley Skrdlant, a marketer for the NSCD.
Some of the veterans seemed to take to the different sports very well with the knowledge they have from serving in the various branches of the military.
Many of the veterans enjoyed the Nordic biathlon event as they were familiar with firing rifles.
Brandon Griffith worked on jet engines for the Navy until he was placed on medical retirement. He now studies computer science at Red Rocks Community College and participates with the NSCD.
Griffith was a competitive shooter through the ROTC at his high school before continuing on to the Navy. He mentioned that he is looking forward to a snowboarding trip through the NSCD that will take place in a couple of weeks.
"We wanted them [the veterans] to get to know us and to create some relationships with our staff," said Beth Fox, operations director for the NSCD. "We met our goal for the day."
Fox commented that while speaking to a representative of the Colorado Springs based Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit organization that helps disabled veterans in a number of ways, the representative mentioned that "there are people here that I have never seen smile, but they were smiling today."