Eagle County Special Olympics ski team finishes winter racing season | VailDaily.com

Eagle County Special Olympics ski team finishes winter racing season

'It’s fun and it’s a great social activity for this group because so many times they’re separated in their life'

Kathy Mikolasy came to the valley in 1996 and has been involved with Special Olympics for more than 20 years. She helps lead the Eagle County Special Olympics ski team. (Photo by Wendy Griffith.)

The Eagle County Special Olympics wrapped up its winter season in March at the state competition at Copper Mountain.

Kathy Mikolasy, who came to the valley in 1996 and has been involved with Special Olympics for more than 20 years, helps lead the team of about 12 athletes ranging in age from their late teens to 50 years old. The Eagle County Special Olympics are part of the Colorado Special Olympics, participating out of the western region.

The only requirement for athletes is that they have an intellectual disability, Mikolasy said.

“It’s fun and it’s a great social activity for this group because so many times they’re separated in their life,” Mikolasy said.

The Eagle County Special Olympics ski team is made up of 12 athletes who get together weekly. The ski season ended in March with the state competition at Copper Mountain. (Photo by Wendy Griffith.)
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The group gets together weekly during the winter as well as for competitions.

“Our athletes are from all over the valley,” Mikolasy said. “We have athletes that work at Mid-Vail. We have athletes that work at Broken Arrow; we have athletes that work at Southside Benderz — they’re an integral part of our community, and you would probably know more of them than you think you do.”

Mikolasy helps lead the ski team of Eagle County Special Olympics, but the organization also offers biking, swimming and bowling. For younger skiers, local nonprofit Small Champions is a great way to enter the sport.

There’s also a large group of volunteers who help the team go.

“If it weren’t for the many volunteers, family members and donors, we would not be the successful Vail Valley Dream Team that we are,” Mikolasy said in an email.

As for the athletes, they are all competing while having fun.

“It’s very competitive,” Mikolasy said of Special Olympics. “Our Special Olympics competitions are just as important to them as a typical athlete.”

And while it is a competitive atmosphere, all of the athletes support one another because that’s what they know.

“It’s just a great team. Our ski team is so supportive of one another and rally around each other,” Mikolasy said. “Even though it’s a competition, they’re so excited for each other. It is searious, but they don’t know to not root for someone because that person might beat them. It’s a real harmonious, supportive group that teaches us a lot.”

Special Olympics is a global organization that serves athletes with intellectual disabilities working each year with hundreds of thousands of volunteers and coaches, like Mikolasy, For more information, visit http://www.specialolympics.org.

“Every week and every day that we work with this population, something happens that reminds us of why we’re doing what we’re doing,” Mikolasy said.

Assistant editor Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2984 and rleonhart@vaildaily.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.