THE HISTORY OF CHALLENGE ASPEN
Challenge Aspen is an organic outgrowth of the individually conceived dreams of co-founders, Houston Cowan and Amanda Boxtel. Both experienced life-changing moments that solidified their connection to the adaptive recreation field.
For Amanda, it was her ski accident that left her paralyzed, on Snowmass Mountain on February 27, 1992. Amanda discovered the personal courage required to regain her life and resume the activities seemingly lost to her after her fall. Houston was first introduced to adaptive recreation through BOLD (Blind Outdoor Leisure Development) as a volunteer guide and instructor. After his first day teaching with the remarkable participants of BOLD, Houston realized his true calling.
Each utilized their life experiences to formally establish Challenge Aspen in 1995 in Snowmass Village, Colorado. With a strong working relationship with Aspen Skiing Company, that includes access to the area’s four ski mountains, a dedicated staff, and a committed volunteer force, Challenge Aspen has provided access for all abilities to a wide variety of recreational and cultural activities.
Challenge Aspen programs started off as mainly winter adaptive ski programs with one sit-ski and a few homemade outriggers. Challenge Aspen began with 400 participant days in 1995 and has grown to over 3,000 participant days today.
Challenge Aspen has continued to listen to participant needs and has responded in kind with services and year-round offerings. Challenge Aspen’s Recreational, Educational, Cultural (REC) program provides individuals and groups with physical and/or cognitive disabilities diverse opportunities to experience all that the Roaring Fork Valley has to offer.
In addition to the growing recreation programs for all abilities and ages, Challenge Aspen was at the forefront of offering adaptive recreation experiences to men and women with service related injuries beginning in 1999. After 9/11, the need for military opportunities in adaptive recreation grew dramatically, and Challenge Aspen established a military division developed exclusively for injured service members and their families. Today, Challenge Aspen Military Opportunities (CAMO) is one of the largest military adaptive recreation programs in the country.
In 2017, upon Houston’s retirement as CEO, Challenge Aspen embarked on a new journey with new Chief Executive Officer, Jeff Hauser. Jeff joined Challenge Aspen from Hauser & Associates, LLC., where he was the principal, founder and co-owner. With Jeff’s expertise, devoted staff, and volunteers, Challenge Aspen is set to further serve its participants through growth in programming, services, and experiences.
From the beginning, Challenge Aspen believed that access, community and participation were the keys to healing and establishing rewarding lives for those with disabilities. Challenge Aspen continues to carry those ideals forward as the organization connects, encourages, and inspires those with physical and/or cognitive disabilities.