Rocky Mountain Adaptive Breaking Down Barriers
Rocky Mountain Adaptive Breaking Down Barriers
The COVID-19 pandemic has not slowed things down for Rocky Mountain Adaptive (RMA), the renowned local non-profit that offers multi-sport mountain experiences for people living with disabilities. In fact, it’s growing faster than ever–thanks to both a boom in demand and significant financial support from the Wim & Nancy Pauw Foundation (WNPF).
Through a three-year pledge of $100,000 per year, two landmark programs will see a big boost, starting with the U-CAN Winter Try It Camp, which offers first-timers a chance to give skiing and snowboard a try.
RMA’s Executive Director Jamie McCulloch says it’s a chance for people with physical or neuro-divergent challenges to use adaptive sports equipment for the first time and learn from professional instructors at Sunshine Village Ski Resort. Lift tickets are also included with the program. The goal is to help participants fall in love with being active in the outdoors. From the Try-It camps, they can pursue a full path of support to participate in week long camps, winter weekend development programs and even through to professional training for para-athletes. Or, they can stick to recreational skiing and snowboarding simply for the joy of it. Either way, it can be a life-changing experience.
“We believe in the sport-for-life principal,” McCulloch says. “We hope that by giving skiing or snowboarding a try, people will realize it’s something they can do with family and friends and they can fall in love with the sport.”
“We hope that by giving skiing or snowboarding a try, people will realize it’s something they can do with family and friends and they can fall in love with the sport.”
Physical and Financial Barriers
Not only are there physical barriers keeping people with disabilities away from experiencing mountain sports. There are socio-economic ones as well. After all, the ski and snowboard industry has a reputation for being expensive. Plus, there’s usually a significant distance between where many people live and the mountains.
The Winter Try It Program, funded with $25,000 from the WNPF pledge, will take down those barriers and make skiing and snowboarding accessible and inclusive to people of all abilities, including those with physical or neuro-divergent challenges.
“The whole Try It Camp principle is to remove those barriers and show that the impossible is possible by providing completely free opportunities to come to the mountains for no cost, to use specialized equipment, get lift tickets and professional lessons–all completely free,” McCulloch says. “And doing that in the backdrop of the beautiful Canadian Rockies is incredibly impactful.”
Getting There is Half the Problem
Rocky Mountain Adaptive offers year-round multisport experiences in the Bow Valley that appeal to people from across Alberta and around the world. One of the biggest challenges is actually getting people here to the mountains.
Year-on-year growth has seen their programs expand in popularity–during their first year, 40 people participated in their programs. In 2020, a pandemic year, they had more than 2,000 people participate in their adaptive sports experiences. As more people with physical and neuro-divergent challenges try these sports, they’re often limited in following through due to socio-economic realities. Until now, there has been no accessible transportation options from the Calgary area to the Bow Valley.
In tandem with a grant from the provincial government, $75,000 of the first year WNPF donation means RMA can purchase a state-of-the-art customized Mercedes Sprinter van that will transport those with accessibility limitations straight to the mountains. It’ll provide a first-class, flexible experience that can be fully configured in a variety of formats to suit people of mixed abilities and accommodate up to six wheelchairs.
The multi-year financial support from WNPF is the final piece in a puzzle to get people introduced to mountain sports and to begin life-long passions, McCulloch says.
“This is a high priority item within our strategic plan and will remove yet another barrier for people to come to the Bow Valley and access our programs,” McCulloch says.
Keep Dreaming, Dreamers
While RMA started as a ‘dream’ by a group of ‘dreamers’, McCulloch says they are continuing to aim high. Now on a solid base with financial support, RMA can execute on the lines of development that will ultimately expand their programming, training and the quality of programming. More and more people living with disabilities will be able to participate in mountain sports.
“The WNPF support is only going to help us elevate and grow and increase our impact year over year,” he says. “We’ll use the history of our success to keep making sure the next dreams are realized.”