The History of Challenge Aspen
Challenge Aspen is dedicated to impacting lives through year-round adaptive experiences for individuals faced with cognitive and/or physical disabilities.
Challenge Aspen creates life-changing opportunities by encouraging participation in activities designed to redefine limits, recognize abilities, and transfer newfound courage to everyday life.
27 years of donations and support have contributed to:
- Over 16,500 participants served with nearly 52,900 participant days
- $3.1M awarded in scholarships
- 75+ active volunteers annually
- 100% of CAMO participants attend retreats free of charge
February 27, 1992
Turning life experiences into possibilities
Amanda Boxtel discovered the personal courage required to regain her life and resume the activities seemingly lost to her after a ski accident that left her paralyzed on Snowmass Mountain, February 27, 1992. She has brought this courage to all of her life’s pursuits, advocating to improve the lives of people living with disabilities.
February 27, 1992
Houston Cowan 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. He devoted his life to making a difference and taking the “dis” out of disability.
Challenge Aspen founded by Amanda and Houston
Combining their talents and dreams, co-founders Amanda and Houston established Challenge Aspen in 1995, making possibilities for people with disabilities.
Early Programs, (1996-2004)
Amanda and Houston produced adaptive skiing camps to encourage skill development and redefine the limits of the challenges our participants face. Shortly after they created summer outdoor recreational & cultural camps, making Challenge Aspen a year-round program.
Early Mono Ski Camp
Challenge Aspen’s first Mono Ski Camp and VI Ski Fest were on the calendar in the first winter season. These camps were skill-focused and social. They spent many hours on the mountain fine-tuning their adaptive skiing techniques and sharing their experiences with each other
Private groups travel nationally and internationally to experience the freedom and empowerment of “flying” down a mountain with friends and family, assisted by Challenge Aspen adaptive certified instructors and community volunteers.
Early M&D Camp
The first summer programs launched. Our Magic of Music & Dance camp offered participants the opportunity to act, sing, dance and socialize in a safe, supported and fun environment. The first musical performed was “The Messy Room.” Since then, campers have performed classic musicals like The Little Mermaid, Snow White, Peter Pan, The Jungle Book, Grease, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory and Frozen.
Exceptional Artist Studio camp utilized the talents of visiting artists to create works of individual expression through different forms of media. This culminated into an art show, featuring our participants’ original works, for family and friends.
Summer Programs Expanded
Summer programs expanded to include rock climbing, kayaking, Grand Canyon visits, and bicycling camps.
Challenge Aspen continues to listen to participant needs and respond with services, like the addition of Challenge Autism, and other 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.
2000 & 2005
Houston & Amanda were invited by Iceland’s President, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, to visit Iceland, train and help them create an adaptive ski program in Akureri.
Challenge Aspen partnered with Desafio Bariloche’s programs and the Aspen Sister Cities, offering training and adaptive equipment to support their mission of furthering adaptive ski instruction in Argentina.
Challenge Aspen recruited its 1st marathon team as a fundraising event with the goal of traveling to and racing in Lausanne, Switzerland. Each year a new team trains together, raises funds for Challenge Aspen’s programs, travels to participate in the goal race and cheer each other on. Teams have traveled to exotic destinations like Monaco, New Zealand, Iceland, The Netherlands, Portugal, Argentina, Croatia and Hungary.
First Sled Hockey tournament held at Aspen Recreation Center, produced by Jim Finch, Challenge Aspen ski instructor and member of the US Sled Hockey Team.
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.
Challenge Aspen branched out with an adaptive ski racing division. Athletes trained under experienced coaches for US Disabled Nationals, World Cup and Paralympics events.
Our Locals’ programming launched to promote frequent fun, healthy, social activities for our Roaring Fork Valley participants. This has kept them engaged and enjoying lasting friendships with each other and our community volunteers. Winter Locals’ ski program allows them to ski with volunteer buddies each week. If interested they may train for and participate in the Special Olympics and Nastar National events. Summer activities include SUP days, bowling, rhythmic “Pound” classes, online Bingo, nutrition classes, board game days, art projects, adaptive cycling, movie afternoons, swimming, and just hanging out together.
Custom Adventures answered the need for families to be able to visit our valley whenever they choose and have the finest, customized adaptive experience for their family member(s). Focusing on the needs of the participant and their family our staff creates an itinerary of fun, safe activities and provide the support to insure a meaningful, top-notch adventure
Stronger with Community
Supported by a strong working relationship with Aspen Skiing Company that includes access to the area’s four ski mountains, Aspen Sports and numerous additional community sponsors, a dedicated staff, and a committed Board of Directors and volunteer force, Challenge Aspen has provided access for all abilities to a wide variety of recreational and cultural activities for 27 years. We look forward to creating possibilities for people with disabilities for the next 25.