Small Champions connect with ski pros in Vail
Local kids get to meet with top instructors for a day of fun
VAIL — Jackson Delles discovered his love for skiing when he was 5 years old, thanks to a local nonprofit that has been helping transform the lives of Eagle County youth for the past 27 years.
“Small Champions is really what got me into adaptive skiing,” said Delles, now 16, and attending Eagle Valley High School. “They are the reason I found that I love skiing. It’s my favorite thing to do.”
On Sunday, Jan. 29, the Larkspur restaurant at Golden Peak in Vail was filled with Small Champions participants and their instructors along with members of the PSIA-AASI Team — made up of the top ski and snowboard instructors from across the country — and members of Vail resorts management. The different groups were all brought together by Kent and Vicki Logan, mutual donors of PSIA and Small Champions.
John Weiss, the executive director of Small Champions, credited the Logans with being instrumental in getting the national team to Vail to train for its trip to Interski 2023 in Levi, Finland, and also coordinating the opportunity for the team, Small Champions and Vail Resorts management to get together.
From five to 75
Small Champions began in Eagle County in 1996 with just five participants. Weiss said the impetus was the lack of access for those with disabilities who live in Eagle County to participate in skiing. Today, Small Champions has over 75 participants.
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“What makes us tick are the great coaches and instructors,” he said. “These are folks that have a passion to work with children in our community with special needs. They really are an incredible bunch.”
Geoff Krill, the PSIA adaptive team coach, was able to get out on the hill along with his team and Small Champions participants.
“I just think of adaptive skiing and the inclusivity that you guys are providing here with people becoming part of your workforce and the actual ski resort,” he said. “That means the most. I wouldn’t be sitting here today if it wasn’t for programs like this that taught me how to ski. This is the anniversary of my spinal cord injury, 28 years ago today. It’s a milestone.”
Kara Heide, a board member for Small Champions, said what makes Small champions special is that the program is entirely local. It limits participation to youth who attend schools in Eagle County, creating opportunities for local kids to get on snow — and giving local parents a lift.
“They are the fabric of our community,” she said of the participants. “Their parents work and live here. As a parent, if you don’t have opportunities for your child, especially those with special needs, you are going to leave. It’s everyone’s responsibility to do everything they can to support these families with special needs kids.”