Sun Valley Adaptive Sports Takes U.S Marines to Higher Ground
Photography: Dev Khalsa
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After skiing, the group gathers for lunch at Galena Lodge and conversation turns to mountain biking. “That used to be my thing,” Lowe comments, the reality of what he’s saying taking some of the exuberance from his face.
“It still can be,” Iselin insists. Sun Valley Adaptive Sports is committed to the wounded soldiers for the long haul, he explains. The program offers its adventure to veterans nationwide, but makes a concerted effort to contact vets in Idaho and neighboring states so they can routinely use the organization’s services. The Marines participating in the winter program all live in the Treasure Valley near Boise, just a few hours away. Iselin wants them to return to Sun Valley as many times as they can. “We’re not just about skiing,” he says. “If they want to learn to fly fish, we can help them do that. Kayaking, cycling, paragliding, windsurfing, golf . . . we’ll get them out there.”
Iselin says they also offer arts and crafts such as photography, woodcarving and pottery. Vets can even learn how to play a musical instrument.
“The vets are very excited about these other activities and we have found that they provide some of the most life-changing experiences for them.
“We’re an Idaho organization and we’re passionate about helping Idaho veterans,” Iselin continues. The energetic director seizes every chance he gets to remind these veterans that life is changed, not over. “We all have experiences that cause us pain and suffering,” he acknowledges.
“It’s how we react to those experiences that determine our character.”
Ski instructor Jen Smith couldn’t agree more. She’s in her second day of downhill skiing with Lowe. She introduced him to the mono-ski at Dollar Mountain a few days ago and now they have moved to Bald Mountain, upgrading Lowe’s ski system. While she’s tethered to Lowe, Smith says he’s now doing most of the work.
“Joe has a great, great attitude. To be six months post-injury and skiing is a phenomenon,” the veteran adaptive ski instructor and Sun Valley Adaptive Sports board member says. She seems to be having as much fun as her student.
“I would rather work with someone who is trying to figure out what they can do rather than what they can’t,” Smith explains. “In the end, we’ve all got the same goal—we’re all working on sliding down the mountain with the maximum amount of fun.”
Lowe is keeping his end of the bargain, each run more daring than the last. The exertion of doing everything with his shoulders and arms—the spinal cord injury left him without stomach muscles—is evident by day’s end. The next morning, he’s absent from breakfast at Sun Valley Lodge’s Gretchen’s restaurant, where the group starts each day. It’s easy to understand. Disabled or not, no one could have kept up the rigorous pace, the ceaseless activity.
But, no. “Joe’s already at the mountain,” Nate Spaulding announces, as he leisurely sips coffee with his wife, Angela. “They were out of here by seven to be the first ones on the lift.”
Later, Lowe shares the secret of his amazing renewal. The Sun Valley Adaptive Sports crew had arranged a massage at Zenergy for the vets. It was his first professional massage. “It felt like heaven,” he confesses, somehow guilty for the simple indulgence. >>>