Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Nationals put Soldier Mountain on the map

Championship races take place at Fairfield ski area

Express Staff Writer

A trio of sit-skiers waits at the finish line after their races during the Hartford U.S. Disabled Nationals at Soldier Mountain on Saturday. Photo by Dana DuGan

The Hartford U.S. Disabled Ski Championships wrapped up on Saturday at Soldier Mountain near Fairfield, with approximately 50 athletes competing for slots on the U.S. Disabled Team. Marc Mast of Wood River Ability Program helped bring the Nationals to the area, and his organization was one of the sponsors along with Soldier Mountain.

"Everybody going away said they had a great time and we're looking at future scenarios to have there that could include World Cups, speed camps, nationals," Mast said. "Everyone wants to use that venue more. Soldier Mountain and Kenny Corrock did an awesome job there. It just came out perfect, right down to the weather."

Sandy Metzger, program director of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team, was equally pleased.

"We love Soldier," she said while standing on the side of a slope watching the races. "It's a wonderful venue. I can't imagine why more people don't ski here."

The big winners of the races were Brad Washburn, of Littleton, Colo., in the standing men's division; Allison Jones, of Colorado Springs, in female standing; Caitie Sarubbi, of New York, in female visually impaired; and Ricci Kilgore, of Reno, Nev., in female sit-ski.

Among the racers was Elitsa Storey, 20, of Ketchum, who finished second in each of her races to fellow ski team member Jones. But she was rooting her friends along at the finish line throughout.

"After the last race of the season, I'm taking time off from racing to go to school in Colorado," she said.

She said she particularly liked the location of this race.

"I've been hanging out with my family and sleeping in my own bed," she said. "But I live in Winter Park now."

Other highlights included the male sit-ski race on Wednesday, when Joe Tompkins of Alaska beat Kevin Bramble of Truckee, Calif., who had not lost a race in nine years. Tompkins spent the rest of the week in full-grin mode.

There were two Iraq war veterans racing as well. A double amputee, Sgt. Brandon Adam, 22, of Post Falls, Idaho, was racing in a sit-ski, a piece of equipment he'd barely mastered over the course of one month using it. Perseverance is part of his nature, his father, Doug Adam, said.

"He's competitive," he said. "He always has been. Motocross, skiing, and then the Army."

Inspired by the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when he was just 16, he pre-enlisted and reported for duty right out of high school. On May 5, 2007, Adam lost both legs in a bomb explosion in Baghdad. He was in the middle of his second tour in Iraq.

"He was a bleed-out," his father said. "It's a miracle they saved him."

First, Adam was evacuated to Germany, then to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, where he has undergone scores of operations. Early last winter, he told his doctors "Get me legs." He was determined to be standing when his unit returned after Christmas 2007.

He got his prosthetic legs at Brooke and when his unit came home before New Year's Day, Adam was standing tall.

"Some of his brothers didn't make it," his father said. "He does this for them."

Adam, who feels he is nothing special, wouldn't comment on the race other than to say, "Yup," when asked if he was having fun.

On Saturday, a closing banquet was held at the American Legion Hall in Ketchum catered by Full Moon Catering.

"They loved it," Mast said.

Afterwards, they adjourned to The Mint in Hailey for a party with live music.

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