By Eva Potter

Each year, HoliMont’s Phoenix Adaptive Program hosts the international “Rise to the Challenge” Race and Awareness Day, celebrating youth, the spirit of learning and the desire to achieve even when physical disabilities make accomplishment a more difficult challenge.

The event is open to the public and takes place this Saturday, Feb. 8, beginning at 9 a.m.

Last year, more than 70 athletes took to the slopes including those on skis, sit-skis, snowboards, as well as those who wove their way down the course with the assistance of seeing aides. Racers came from around the U.S. and Canada to compete.

This year, Chuck Richardson, founder of HoliMont’s Phoenix Adaptive Program and race organizer, said they’re “running close to 80” participants.

He added, “We’ve got some Wounded Warriors coming, some who are from the Buffalo Ski Club. They’re the ones that have a couple mono skiers.”

The Wounded Warrior group from Ohio was invited again this year, but Richardson said he hasn’t heard if they plan to attend.

“The race is open to individuals as well as teams. You don’t need to be on a team to sign up,” explained Richardson.

The race consists of two runs per racer and, at the end of the day, every racer receives a medal and certificate at the awards ceremony.

Richardson said, “It’s ‘personal best’ for the racers. In other words, they set their time and then they try to beat their first run.”

Racers select from four different categories to determine their course. Level 1 is for beginners, level 2 is for intermediate and level 3 is for advanced skiers. Level 4 competitors ski the whole hill from top to bottom.

Competitors can still register the day of the event at HoliMont’s Race Hut. The cost is $46 per racer, which includes the lift ticket. Food is available for purchase inside the Main Chalet.

Started by Richardson in 1996, HoliMont’s Phoenix Adaptive Program provides a means to teach skiing and snowboarding to youth and adults with various special needs for HoliMont members.

The HoliMont Snowsports School Phoenix Program runs seasonal ski classes for children and adults with special needs, and provides the equipment needed for those who cannot ski or ride using traditional equipment. Most instructors are certified to teach the adaptive classes and are aided by over 40 volunteers annually.

The program addresses a variety of cognitive and physical needs including autism and other disabilities. Private lessons or seasonal programs are offered on Saturday and Sunday, and during the week by request. Instructors continually update their teaching skills by attending seminars and special training programs sponsored by Disabled Sports USA and National Wounded Warriors.

Richardson said the non-skiing public is “welcome to watch to support the racers as a cheerleader. We’d love to have people out cheering them on.”

The racing begins at 9 a.m. The awards ceremony is scheduled for 2:45 p.m., followed by an après ski party at 3:15 p.m. with music by Deja Groove.

For more information about the Phoenix Adaptive Ski Program at HoliMont, call (716) 699-8159 or visit