The History of Challenge Aspen​

Since 1995 the Challenge Aspen community has believed that access, inclusive participation and a supportive community are the foundation to encourage wellness and for establishing rewarding lives for individuals living with physical and/or cognitive disabilities. Our programs are created to embrace these ideals connecting, empowering and inspiring those we serve.

Our Mission

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.

challeng easpen military
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25 years of donations and support have contributed to:

  • Over 14,300 participants served with nearly 48, 200 participant days
  • $2473976 awarded in scholarships
  • 75+ active volunteers
  • 100% of CAMO participants attend retreats free of charge

Our History

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

February 27, 1992

Houston’s Story

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.

February 27, 1992

1995

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.

1995

Early Programs, (1996-2004)

Early Programs

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 Programs, (1996-2004)

1996

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

1996

1997-Present

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.

1997-Present

1997

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.

1997

1998-2003

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.

1998-2003

2000 & 2005

International Outreach

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.

2000 & 2005

2002-Present

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.

2002-Present

2002

Portillo, Chile

2002

2003

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.

2003

2004

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.

2004

Challenge Aspen's Military Opportunities (CAMO) History

2005 - Present

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.

2005 - Present

2006-2010

 

Challenge Aspen branched out with an adaptive ski racing division.  Athletes trained under experienced coaches for US Disabled Nationals, World Cup and Paralympics events.

2006-2010

2007-Present

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.

2007-Present

2014-Present

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

2014-Present

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 25 years. We look forward to creating possibilities for people with disabilities for the next 25.

All disabilities. All ages. All seasons.

REC serves any individual, of any age, living with any disability and offers individuals and groups with physical and/or cognitive disabilities diverse opportunities to experience all that the Roaring Fork Valley has to offer. The wide array of REC activities are designed to boost confidence and self- esteem while broadening horizons for all ages. Additionally, Challenge Aspen Custom Adventures offers customized vacation packages and daily adventures for any individual with a disability or family with an ability challenged member.

14,300

participants served

75+

active volunteers

76+

custom adventures

$2.5 mil.

awarded in scholarships

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