Adaptive Sports Association (ASA) is celebrating its 35th year. Each season has been marked by inspiration, perspiration, dedication and an enduring faith that each new year will bring new possibilities and continued success.
Dave Spencer, the driving force behind our adaptive sports foundation, lost a leg to cancer while in college in Wisconsin. He came to Purgatory through a ski magazine advertisement after returning to skiing as part of his rehabilitation program. Spencer said, “When I discovered I could ski, I suddenly had the feeling I could accomplish anything I wanted.” He secured a part-time position with the area’s ski school. With the strong encouragement of his first adaptive student who had an amputated leg and her husband, Spencer began dreaming of a full-fledged ski program for people with disabilities. Dave joined forces with Joe Wilson, a veteran ski instructor in traditional ski school, who was managing a small program at Purgatory assisting blind skiers who came to the resort- a major turning point for our organization.
Unfortunately in 1986, Spencer passed away and the old log cabin was named the Dave Spencer Center in his honor. As Spencer liked to say, “Being handicapped is not a spectator sport.” He described it as the difference between “living life and just surviving a disability.”
As the years rolled by, Purgatory Ski Area became Durango Mountain Resort, then changed back to Purgatory Ski Area, and the Durango/Purgatory Handicapped Sports Association became the Adaptive Sports Association. The old log cabin is still in use, but has received a lot of upgrades including an expansion of the building. Rest assured, the warm family atmosphere has not and will not change.
In 1998, a summer program was added just as Spencer had hoped. Activities currently include: rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, canoeing, bicycling and overnight camping. After a quarter of a century, ASA continues to have alliances with numerous special groups offering scholarships and grant support. The immediate past has seen increased participation by veterans supported by the Wounded Warrior Project and generous individuals. ASA also provides sport and recreation activities for special education classes within the local school districts and continues to train Special Olympics athletes during the winter months.
Individual, small business, corporate and group support are remarkable for a community the size of Durango (pop. 18,500 as of 2016). The Adaptive Sports Association serves more than 450 individuals with the help of almost 280 active volunteers and state-of-the-art equipment. As Spencer once said, “Our goal is to get our clients out on the slopes with friends and family and personalize the instruction.”