NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Feb. 12, 2016) – Individuals with special
needs from the southern region of the United States spend time on the mountainous
ski slopes every winter thanks to the help of many volunteers. A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers electrical
equipment mechanic often spends a portion of the winter at an eastern Tennessee
ski resort supporting the free ski clinic for dozens of adaptive skiers.
Marcus Brumbaugh, electrical mechanic from the Nashville
District at the Cordell Hull Dam in Carthage, Tenn., said he enjoys spending
his wintery weekends on some of Tennessee’s most vibrant mountain slopes skiing. One of his passions is volunteering during
his off-duty hours to help provide a great skiing experience for these men and
women who wouldn’t ordinarily get to go on a ski run.
From Jan. 19 through 23, 2016, Brumbaugh joined the Disabled
Sports USA chapter and the Sports Parks and Recreation group of Chattanooga, an
affiliate chapter of the Disabled Sports USA Adaptive Learn to Ski Program, to
help out with the clinic held at the Beech Mountain Resort in Beech Mountain, N.C.
An avid skier, Brumbaugh got involved in the program
several years ago because he wanted to volunteer in a winter activity that
assists and works with disabled veterans.
For two years he has guided skiers up and down slopes as a guide for the
DS USA SPARC event.
“This adaptive ski program fits me perfectly,” said
Brumbaugh. “I get a fantastic feeling every time I see a smile and facial
reaction on their face.”
Al Kaye, event coordinator for the Disabled Sports USA
Adaptive Learn to Ski Program, said more than 300 participants come from all
over the southeast region and the list gets longer every year. Many come from North and South Carolina,
Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi and Florida.
Ages range from age 4 to 70 with a variety of diagnoses,
which include brain and spinal injuries, amputees, cerebral palsy, spina bifida,
spinal muscular atrophy, multiple sclerosis, visually impaired, neurological
and orthopedic challenges, and individuals who experience a medical condition
known as “developmental delayed,” where a person is less developed mentally or
“We send out emails, recommendations, past attendees and
select those on a first come, first serve basis,” said Kaye.
Kaye said this is the 35th ski event at Beech Mountain
Resort, which is the oldest adaptive ski clinic. It is the first of a group of national
instructional clinics started by Disabled Sports USA that is well known as
National Handicap Sports. Various
national sponsors of this event donate to bring together the instructors,
equipment, and resources necessary to teach skiing and snowboarding to
individuals with disabilities. Applications are released in November once all
instructors are secured. Lessons are based on availability of type of lesson and
the ski clinic includes equipment, time slots, and instructors.
Since 1981, the adaptive sports program has been offering
risk reduced and highly supportive ski lessons for adults and children with a
wide array of disabilities.
Key said the instructional team for the event at Beech
Mountain is from all over the United States and all are “Professional Ski
Instructors of America Adaptive” certified instructors with over 75 years of
He said the instructional team includes individuals from
Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, Crested Butte Adaptive Programs, and
Cataloochee Adaptive Program. The team’s
experienced instructors guide provide the skiers mono-ski, bi-ski, twin ski, 2,
3, and 4 tracking, slider, visually impaired and snowboard instruction.
More than $55,000 dollars of adaptive ski equipment was
brought to the event to provide a multitude of snow experiences for the
“We want participants to enjoy themselves, have an
experience of a lifetime, and come away with an experience they will never
forget,” said Kaye.
Brumbaugh, an Army and Marine Corps veteran himself, said
he connects with everyone at the event but absolutely loves working with active
duty military and veteran attendees. He
believes through the program, service members and veterans can talk to him
freely, open up, which allows the opportunity to experience a new activity, gain
confidence and develop a skillset they can use in life.
“Being around them is much like our Corps family because there
are volunteer veterans assisting, focusing to help attain a common goal,” said
Brumbaugh. “For example, I had the
opportunity this year to work with an active duty veteran that had not been on
the slopes since he was injured and this event allowed him the opportunity to
get back on the slopes.”
Brumbaugh said he is no doctor but thinks the adaptive ski
clinic builds muscles, endurance, coordination and motor skills. He said most people take it for granted the ability
to function in a normal, every-day setting, but many of these participants deal
with their various disabilities every day.
He said it is a task for most of these folks and this is a fantastic
opportunity for them to continue or try something different to build confidence
and enrich their lifestyles.
“Our motto of DSUSA is, ‘If I can do this, I can do
anything,’ which inspires many to give alpine sports a try,” said
Brumbaugh. “I often can relate to
military personnel well because I know what they have been through while
serving and it can be hard for them to try something new, but when they get the
hang of it, it’s definitely gratifying to see.”
Brumbaugh said he very much respects and admires their
courage, endurance and efforts.
“Many of them tell me about their changes,” said Brumbaugh.
“This Adaptive Program caters to individuals of all ages with physical,
cognitive, or developmental disabilities and that’s what makes it great.”
Kaye added that the programs change the lives of
individuals with disabilities and special needs each and every day. He said ski instructors and volunteers are at
the heart of the organization. Volunteers do the administration, training,
assisting, teaching, and fundraising for the organization.
Carol Haynes, equal opportunity officer with the Nashville
District, commended Brumbaugh for his work and thinks the adaptive ski event at
Beech Mountain is an excellent tool.
“This is an awesome program and we are proud of Marcus for volunteering
his time and work with the event,” said Haynes.
“This program just sells itself and that’s pretty awesome.”
Haynes said many Corps personnel from around the district
volunteer their time with local high school engineering programs, homeless
shelters, churches, sports teams, and science, technology, engineering and math
Brumbaugh is currently working on his ski instructor
credentials during the winter at a resort in Gatlinburg, Tenn., and says he
plans on guiding more of his physically challenged friends down the slopes.
(For more news, updates and information, visit the
districts website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on
Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps or
Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)