Jim Mallouk has been volunteering with Challenge Aspen for four years. When volunteering for Challenge Aspen, Jim helps us document the programs by taking gorgeous photos and teaching participants to ski. Prior to joining Challenge Aspen, Jim lived in Breckenridge. He operated a retail business in Breckenridge from 1981-2008 called Alpine Audio-Video and Camera. After designing and installing audio and theater systems in Summit county homes, he began volunteering with the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, an organization that is similar to Challenge Aspen. At the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, Jim learned all about the world of adaptive snow sports.
Mallouk moved to Snowmass four years ago, and began volunteering at Challenge Aspen shortly after. Over the last three years, Jim has gained a lot of experience volunteering with Challenge Aspen. He has skied with disabled veterans, developmentally disabled people, visually impaired skiers, as well as being involved in the Special Olympics program. A lot of his time over the last few years has been spent with visually impaired skiers. “These folks are unbelievable. They are legally blind and many are able to ski on black diamond runs,” says Mallouk. Can you imagine skiing down a mountain and not being able to see?
In addition to helping Challenge Aspen participants learn to ski, Jim enjoys taking photos and videos of them. Last summer, he spent a week documenting the Challenge Aspen Music Camp and last April, Mallouk took photos of veterans skiing on Aspen Mountain that were pubilshed in the Aspen Times and distributed nationally by the Associated Press.
When asked why he loves volunteering so much, Jim said he loves bringing joy to people and loves being able to help out. “The participants seem to be very happy and extremely grateful to be involved in [Challenge Aspen’s] programs. I love to see the happiness when we take [participants] skiing or when they enjoy many of the other fantastic year round programs at Challenge Aspen.”
One of Jim’s favorite memories from volunteering with Challenge Aspen happened last winter when he guided a man who has been blind since birth. “Last year we went to Aspen Mountain and he raced gates on the course at Ajax with only my voice to guide him. We have skied together for a week during the last two years. Together, we have skied advanced blue and black runs all over Snowmass, Ajax, and Buttermilk,” recalls Mallouk.
Another incredible experience that Jim mentioned happened last year when a local Special Olympics participant won two gold medals in downhill skiing.
“For the last two seasons, every Thursday, I have skied with a young local man who was born with autism. When he came to Challenge Aspen, he was 22 years old had never skied. At first he had great difficulty skiing on the easiest beginner slopes at the Elk Camp Meadows. He fell a lot, however with encouragement, he was tough, and he stuck with it.”
The participant came back to Challenge Aspen last winter and his skiing abilities began to improve dramatically. By the end of the season, he was able to ski from the top of Elk Camp to the Snowmass Village Mall without stopping. Last February, he went to the Special Olympics competition at Copper Mountain and won two gold medals in downhill skiing. Talk about an incredible moment for both Jim and the participant.
“Volunteering for Challenge Aspen is life rewarding and don’t give it a second thought. Every single participant in our program is so incredibly touched and thankful that they can participate in various sports. We brighten their days and give more meaning to their lives. In turn, they give us more meaning to our lives too. What more could anyone ask?”
Thank you for being such a great part of the team at Challenge Aspen, Jim! We look forward to another great season with you.