VAIL ” About a year and a half ago, Hal O’Leary, the founder of the National Disabled Ski Hall of Fame, came to Bob Meserve with a troubling message.
But along with the bad news came a wonderful opportunity.
“He told me support (for the Hall of Fame) was diminishing,” said Meserve, the President of Disabled Sports USA. “He wanted to know if Disabled Sports USA would take on an administrative role for the whole thing. I took it to our board in October of 2005, and presented the idea for them. Everyone was in agreement, saying they didn’t want to lose it. If we didn’t take it one, we were concerned it would die a slow death.”
Meserve was more than happy for DS/USA to take on the operation, but had an idea of his own.
“I said if we take it on, I’d like to get it moved to a more neutral location than the Sunspot Lodge at Winter Park,” Meserve said.
Thanks to the suggestion of Vail skier Sandy Dukat, and the coordination of many, the Disabled Ski Hall of Fame is now housed in Vail, alongside the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame.
Dukat brought the idea to the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame curator, Justin Henderson.
“It wasn’t getting the attention it deserved,” Henderson said. “Moving it from Winter Park and having it housed in a museum helps legitimize it a little more rather than having it in a lodge.”
Meserve also felt the move to Vail would do nothing but give the Disabled Hall of Fame a more attractive home.
“It gives us much better credibility and notoriety,” Meserve said. “It’s right on I-70, in the Vail Transportation Center.”
And unlike its former home, the hall of fame now is fully accessible.
“I never saw it at Winter Park,” said Chris Waddell, who along with Sandy Trombetta were inducted into this year’s Disabled Ski Hall of Fame. “It was at the top of the mountain, and when I’m in my monoski, I’m not able to get in there.”
The museum is open from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, and year-round, whereas it had limited hours in Winter Park.
In November, the disabled hall reopened in its new home, boasting the plaques, inductee photos and biographies, as well as a display of adaptive ski equipment, and some precious medals.
“We have one of the largest collections of Paralympic medals, from 1988, when it was a demonstration sport, up through Torino,” Henderson said.
For the Disabled Ski Hall of Fame be paired up with the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame is a unique opportunity.
“It’s a wonderful match,” Meserve said. “We feel disabled skiing is part of skiing history and ought to be recognized.”
While Meserve likes that Disabled Skiing legends can be seen alongside the 10th Mountain Division exhibit, Henderson enjoys the addition of an equally rich tradition.
“Adaptive skiing took off in the 60’s, and started as adaptive ski clubs for veterans, who were leading the way. They were the one’s who pushed the Americans with Disabilities Act. It’s a pretty cool history,” Henderson said. “It’s important that people are made more aware of adaptive skiing and advances that have been made in the sport from the days when it used as mostly therapy to now, when it’s a world-class sport.”
Waddell, a world-class athlete who has medals from both winter and summer Paralympic Games, got enshrined earlier this season, and a bit emotional in the process.
“I thought about it when I was up on stage … and it’s almost like your life flashes before your eyes, and it’s super melodramatic, but I didn’t think I’d be moved by it,” Waddell said. “I’m part of history.”
Not a branch of history, but skiing history.
“To me, it gets to be about skiing,” Waddell said. “It’s not necessarily about disabled skiing. There are so many different ways going about skiing. The idea is that you are doing it. We’re all out there in search of the perfect turn.”
Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.