Guest opinion: National Ability Center is a place where dreams come true
National Ability Center board member
Park City is a remarkable community of individuals who share a love of nature and outdoor recreation. Park City is also the home of the National Ability Center, an international organization that provides outdoor recreation for people with different abilities, who without their programs would not have access to nature and outdoor recreation like everyone else.
I first came to Park City 21 years ago for Sundance and the experience profoundly changed my life. Just three years earlier, I had been hit by a drunk driver and lost both of my legs. Traveling to a film festival in snow using a wheelchair was a daunting challenge. As fate would have it, an NAC volunteer was seating us at our table at 350 Main and told me I should try adaptive skiing. With one phone call my lesson was scheduled and I found myself sitting in a mono-ski with the head coach of the National Ability Center’s adaptive alpine race program, Marcel Kuonen. Marcel explained in his Swiss accent “there is no such thing as disabled skiing.” He would teach me how to adapt, and ski with a mono-ski. In his mind, those who use a mono-ski are “more able” because they have less to work with to execute the same task — skiing down the hill. Imagine! Within minutes of the short chair lift ride I was skiing and I was free. I soon fell and was so taken by the rush of the wind in my face I unbuckled myself to stand up and get back in the ski, I forgot I didn’t have legs.
Within weeks, I moved to Park City to train at the National Ability Center with the hopes of racing in the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games and winning a gold medal with my new coach and the man who would become the love of my life and husband. We competed in five Paralympic Games and won five Paralympic medals including two golds. Recognizing the privilege of ski racing for 20 years, I wanted to give back to the organization where it all began by serving on the board at the National Ability Center. I want to ensure that everyone continues to have access to nature, outdoor recreation and the possibility of finding love, like I did.
Members of our community have generously given, volunteered and attended our fundraising events like Red, White and Snow, the Summit Challenge and our Barn Party growing the National Ability Center to a world-class facility that is unlike any other around the world. I am so grateful for and deeply humbled by the outpouring of support year after year from people who don’t know anything about disability — they just know the NAC is a place where dreams come true and people’s lives are transformed.
I want to thank our beloved community and invite you to stay connected and support our fundraising efforts this year by participating in the Live PC Give PC campaign on Nov. 6. On this single day, we are asking everyone to visit livepcgivepc.org and support the organizations that make our lives vibrant and uniquely Park City.
Please join Marcel and I on Nov. 6, to support our cherished community that we are so grateful to live in — one that recognizes inclusion matters and through the NAC, outreach, education and outdoor recreation for everyone with different abilities and their families is transforming lives and maximizing the potential of our diversity. Additionally, our support might just be doubled — through matching challenge grants and prizes.
So please join us on this special day and visit livepcgivepc.org to learn more.
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Steve Berlack, whose son died in an avalanche in 2015, writes in a letter to the editor that “[i]f you want to venture into the backcountry, do it safely. Get the education you need. … Understand the forecast. Make conservative decisions like your life depends on it.”